WordPress Workbench: RJ Quickcharts

Wordpress Workbench

Every once in a while you just need to draw someone a diagram before they get it, and using charts and graphs to display numbers has been a staple in infographics and at the boardroom table.  With the new functionality brought to us by HTML5 and CSS3 displaying table of number doesn’t need to look like, well tables of numbers.

Companies like Highcharts.com have been providing data visualization products for a while now, and these services are quite powerful, chance are if you’ve seen interactive graphics on news or trade site, it’s probably got Highcharts or something like it running in the background. Powerful as it is, it can be overkill for smaller websites looking to put up the occasional pie or line chart.

The usual workaround is to grab a chart of a spreadsheet app like Microsoft Excel and drop it into the site content. This works, sort of… but it’s just an image, without any crawl-able information. RJ Quickcharts by Randy Jensen is a simple HTML5 based WordPress Plugin that gives you some of the functionality of something like Highcharts but without going overboard with too many options.

I had some time to play around with Quickcharts; it’s fairly easy to use with some default data entered to help you with the formatting and provides chart in three flavors: line, bar and pie. The charts do look quite nice and scale responsively. In the edit screen the preview of the chart updates as you update the data. The chart is also saved separately from other posts and pages the same chart can be added into any page using a shortcode and once the chart is on page, tooltip information comes up as the user mouses over a data point, great for people who want the hard numbers.

I did have some gripes with it though, options are quite limited, bar charts can only displayed vertically, and there’s very little customization available through the dashboard, the style of the chart can be tweaked using CSS, though for the average user this may be a bit daunting.

Also there’s no way to import data from a spreadsheet, so you’d have to input the information manually, this also means that dynamically generated data can be used either.  I said before this is more of a light duty plugin, and sites requiring more options can always go a service to get the features they need.

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