As Google (Public Data Explorer) and Microsoft (Pivot) are getting into the mix of online data visualization tools, it is evident that this is a realm to carefully watch. Public data is de rigeur and blogs in this field are becoming ubiquitous, hence the perfect storm for online visualization. While public data is not necessary for online viz, it certainly makes it easy for the masses to enter the fray of data analytics.
As we announced a few months ago, we will be starting a new feature aimed at reviewing visualization tools. There are many tools out there that suit different needs and sport varied features. This ongoing feature will hopefully shed light on these tools and if they might fit into your workflow. In the meantime, please feel free to give your opinion on this new reviewing feature in the comments section below. Should we change any of the criteria? Are there any inaccuracies? What did we miss?
Our first software review will focus on the arguably current big three of online dataviz tools: Swivel, Many Eyes, and Tableau Public. During the next weeks, we will be publishing these in succession and culminating with a comparison of all three.
We chose the criteria based on user comments from our previous posts. Additionally, Benjamin, Patrick (who is reviewing Many Eyes), and I collaborated on refining the list and adding features we thought were compelling. We included a list of supported charts at the end of the post.
First, we want to focus on Swivel. Swivel was an early entrant to this field and thus is playing with the big kids in terms of online visualization. Benjamin Wiederkehr of Datavisualization.ch completed this review of Swivel.
|Cost||Free as long as the data is
$12/month for 20 Spreadsheets, 20 charts, 3 reports
$48/month for 80 Spreadsheets, 80 charts, 20 reports
$96/month for 200 Spreadsheets, 200 charts, 50 reports
Every plan comes with 15 days free trial
|Free Version available||Yes|
|Ease of Use||Easy|
|Embeddable (into a web page)||Yes|
|Comments / Discussion||Yes (Comments for datasets, charts and reports)|
|Export Formats||CSV, PNG|
|Maturity (age of software)||> 3 years|
|Customer Service||Swivel provides assistance on various channels. User can get in touch with customer support using the feedback form on the website or via email. Developers receive guidance on the Google Group, the API Wiki on GitHub or the Swivel Code Blog.|
|Data Import Formats:|
|other||CSV (coma and tab separated), HTML, OpenDocument, Google Analytics, Google Docs, QuickBooks, Salesforce.com, Custom URL (HTML Documents)|
|Other features||Ability to combine multiple
charts to a sharable report. Charts can be arranged freely on a blank canvas.
Additinal text and images can be included as well.
Data, Charts and Reports can be saved as drafts before making them available to the public or the private group.
Other users can comment on data, charts and reports.
|Pros||Easy to use and solid interface for manipulating the data (Spreadsheet application). Simple customization possibilities for charts. Private groups for confidential data create a real value for business use.|
|Cons||The charting options are very limited and may not suffice all your business needs. Also the ability to customize colors and layout is very limited. Especially with a large amount of labels the legend as well as the mouse-over tooltip get overcrowded quickly. Reports can't be exported - I could see great value in downloading these reports as PDF, PNG or full HTML file to integrate elsewhere.|
|Reviews||The thing that caught my
attention right from the start is the clean and well-organized interface of
this web-based application. Everything is build in HTML with some clever use
acces to everything within 3 clicks maximum. The introduction videos provide
a good overview and make it really easy to get started right away. Within a
few minutes I was able to upload my spreadsheet, choose the right data to
chart, customized the output and shared it with the community.
I had a bit of a struggle to understand what it was that I registered for - was it a paid account with the 15 days trial or is there a free account? The free plan isn't indicated as such, it's just remarked in the claim "Share publicly for free".
If you need a quick way to communicate with your team members or embed charts in your website and don't have the demand for complete flexibility and more complex chart types, Swivel might be a good fit. If you need more customized and complex charts you might not get everything you need from it.
As a last word the application is really well executed visually and from a user experience point of view. If they can include more options regarding the output I can see it as a strong player in the online visualization game.
|For the Purists||The charts have a clean look and a decent color scheme. Decorations are nicely reduced, the only thing a bit unorganized is the mouse-over tooltip. The axes are nicely labeled and the title and the created / updated footer gives good context to the chart at hand.|
|For the Aestheticians||The charts share a common look & feel and the user does not have many options for intervention. Charts can't really be matched to corporate design guidelines or other preliminary definitions.|
|line chart||Yes||scatter plot||Yes|
|area chart||Yes||bubble graph||No|
|block histogram||No||word tree||No|
|stacked bar chart||Yes||tag cloud||No|
|stacked area chart||Yes||phrase net||No|
|tornado chart||No||word cloud generator||No|
|donut chart||No||network diagrams||No|
|polar graph||No||matrix chart||No|
|bullet graph||No||world map||No|
|various map projections||No|
|mosaic plot||No||choropleth map||No|
|heat matrix||No||distorted map||No|
Benjamin Wiederkehr is founding partner of Interactive Things where he's responsible for everything User Experience Design and Data Visualization. He shares his passion for data visualization with the readers of Datavisualization.ch by documenting and discussing findings in this field.
Kim Rees is a partner at Periscopic, a socially-conscious Information Visualization firm specializing in helping nonprofit organizations and like-minded companies convey important messages and elevate public awareness.