Exploring Tools: Datawrapper, #SWDChallenge

This interactive chart is made by DePerfecteGrafiek and Sanne Hombroek as part of the #SWDChallenge in January 2019. The visual is created in Datawrapper, a online datavisualisation tool that has free accounts. Read to learn more about #SWDChallenge and a short review of the tool Datawrapper.

What is the #SWDChallenge

One of my favorite authors about datavisualization, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, created this fun concept. Each month she offers everyone who wants to participate a datavisualization challenge. #SWDChallenge explained in her words:

“One of the best ways to learn is to do. The #SWDchallenge is a monthly challenge where you can practice and apply data visualization and storytelling skills. Think of this as a safe space to try something new: test out a new tool, technique, or approach. There’s no obligation—participate in one, a couple, or all. We encourage everyone to take part: all backgrounds, experience levels, and tools used are welcome. ”

– Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

“Let’s try something new”

This month challenge was to “try something new”. I teamed up with a collegaue (not new, we did this before) and we used a tool new to us: Datawrapper .

We allowed ourselves to play around for an hour, after that we created the final chart from scratch in 30 minutes. We have never used Datawrapper before.

Overall outcome Datawrapper

We were impressed by the possibilities and ease of use of Datawrapper. The free account has interesting options, but we missed some finetuning possibilities. The price for a paid account is to high for our use, because we will not use it daily. Datawrapper focusses on journalists working in a newsroom.

Datawrapper in more detail

Datawrapper uses 4 main steps to guide you through the process of making a datavisualisation. I use them below to describe what we experienced.

Step 1: Upload Data

  • The copy paste functionality is very easy. Other upload functionalities are available.

In the search for a great dataset, we found this tweet, that contained a nice table, related to Brexit. We wanted to change this table into a slopegraph with the help of datawrapper. Because the country names are in Dutch we had to translate them into English. We did this in Excel en then copy pasted the data into datawrapper.

Step 2: Check & Describe

  • Datawrapper visualizes errors in the dataset
  • Datawrapper shows distributions of your uploaded dataset.
  • You can transpose your dataset. (This can also be done afterward when making charts)
  • You can add extra calculated columns in the tool
  • The calculated columns cannot be transposed
  • Columns are categorized automatically, in our case it thought that a measure was a date. This appeared for some columns after transposing. (see image below)
  • This error was easy to fix, because we could override the automatic settings.

Step 3: Visualize

This step is split onto multiple sub steps

  1. Chart types
  2. Refine
  3. Annotate
  4. Design
  • You can choose from 20 different charts and three types of maps.
  • Datawrapper suggested the linechart below for our data. Strangely it put the categories on the x-axis. So the chart choice algorithm might need some new learning.

After transposing the data and tweaking it around a bit, we had the rough outline for the slopegraph we were aiming for (see below). The slopegraph is not a chart type in Datawrapper, but it can be made with a linechart with two timestamps.

In datawrapper it is very easy to switch between charts. So we tried all of them, including this light version of a bulletgraph. In the picture below we already used the refine option to change the sorting and colors to our liking.

  • Each chart has its own type of refining with a lot of interesting elements to play with. In the image below you can see some examples.
  • The fun thing was that when we tried to refine the piechart, datawrapper crashed. It must have been a warning not to use piecharts. Of course we would never use a piechart ourselves, but in this case we had to test all possibillities. 🙂
  • One of the features that impressed us was that, within a table, country codes could automaticly be changed into flags.
  • The annotation in datawrapper is functional but basic. It is easy to type in the title and it is style nice. But, we could not find a way to modify the styling of the text (color, font) within the title or description.

Step 4: Publish & Embed

  • In the free account you can only share this by embedding or sharing the link. As we did in the visual on top of the article.
  • Export to PDF or PNG is not available. We got the (static) images by making a lot of screenshots.