the best free data visualisation tools

The best free data visualisation tools

november 1st, 2016 Posted by communication, storytelling No Comment yet

Granted, this is not the sexiest subject in the world and data visualisation isn’t that innovative either. However, it has always been and will always remain to be a highly relevant subject for most professionals out there. Considering we all present our concepts and theories and we all use data to strengthen our arguments. Moreover, we all look for the most professional and convincing ways to convey our messages to our audiences.

Back in the days, we presented our data in black and white plots accompanied with large epistles, but times have changed and with evolution came a highly visual oriented audience with a short attention span. This change made it harder for us to successfully engage our audiences. The sad truth is that we have been conditioning our minds and the minds of future generations to wonder more quickly through the fragmentation of channels. Evolution thus not only led us needing more visual ways to present our stories, it also forces us to really focus on our core message. In short. evolution gives us all the more reason to immerse ourselves in visual data presentation techniques.

In this article, we will present several online data visualisation tools you could start using today:

Plotly

Plotly is an online tool which is focused on data analysis and the creation of visual data presentations (including dashboards). The tool is easy to use and the graphs can be adjusted to your own look-and-feel (corporate styling), making sure they are in sync with your content. The second benefit of Plotly is that the program is able to communicate with Python, SAS, SPSS, R, MATLAB and Excel, making it quite flexible.

The use of their basic functionalities are free of charge but if you would like to export the graphs in order to further customise them in Illustrator or InDesign, the paid version really is the better option. A subscription to Plotly costs 19 US Dollars a month and enables you to download your graphs in SVG, EPS and PNG. Due to the fact that Plotly is built on d3.js, your graphs can be made interactive and even offers the possibility to stream data real-time (now that is impressive). You can create the graphs with the help of API’s, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the I Python Notebook.

More information about Plotly can be found here

ChartBlocks

Chartblocks is a different matter. While it has a free version, this tool won’t always be usable due to the inability to block data online (making it accessible to everyone). Secondly, the free version offers little possibilities. On the other hand, the tool is very easy to use and offers attractive visual presentation elements. Because this tool has been built on d3.js, it is flexible. Graphs can be exported in PS, SVG and PNG formats.

Chartblocks cheapest option within its freemium model costs 8 US Dollars a month, for 20 US Dollars a month you can customise your graphs entirely (freeing you from their branding). This tool is attractively priced (in comparison to their competitors).

More information on Chartblocks can be found here

Datawrapper

Datawrapper is an open source tool, once developed by a journalistic platform to serve journalists around the world. Many big journalistic corporations are currently using it.

Datawrapper is easy to use and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of programming. In only four simple steps, a table, graph or chart is created which isn’t only mobile friendly but also interactive. Needless to say, is that the interaction with graphs takes more time when a lot of data is placed within them (which means the number of rows per graph should be limited). A clear disadvantage of the tool is the limitation; they only offer 10 basic models in their library.

Basic use is free but for 12 euro’s a month you can incorporate your graphs in your website. For an additional 117 euro’s a month it offers the possibility to work on data visualisation in teams and the possibility to customise the styling.

More information on Datawrapper can be found here

Highcharts (for developers)

Highcharts is not suited for just everyone because the tool is created with developers in mind. This means technical knowledge is needed in order to use this tool successfully. The tool is written in JavaScript and offers a wide range of possibilities to build interactive graphs and tables that can then be used within websites and mobile applications. While the possibilities are endless, there are some downsides to it too: the tool doesn’t offer support on all subjects and documents to help you program aren’t always at hand. Also, the costs of Highcharts are quite high; they ask 150 US Dollars for the use of it on a single website.

More information on Highcharts can be found here

Timeline JS

Timeline JS is quite a different open source tool than the tools we mentioned earlier. Timeline JS helps you create interactive timelines for your website, presentation or blog. The tool uses Google Spreadsheets and is pretty straight forward. You can stream media on your timeline sourcing different platforms. This feature enables companies to visualise both corporate and product history in their presentations or on their website.

The costs: there are none. Timeline JS has been developed by Knightlab and is free of charge. If you want to enhance its performance, you can let developers use its core and have them build extra functionalities that cater to your needs.

More information about Timeline JS can be found here

Piktochart

Again, just a tad different from the previous tools, Piktochart is a tool used to create visually appealing Infographics without the help of a designer. Since Infographics have become quite popular in recent years (because of their easy viewing and the attractive way in which data can be presented) , this tool is a valuable asset in your toolbelt. The 500 Infographic templates are adjustable and the designs can be downloaded in several file types.

The free version will get you a long way but if you need to use a lot of images, it will only set you back about 15 up till 30 US Dollars per month.

More information about Piktochart can be found here

Diagram Duarte

Duarte has created a beautiful online library with 2-D and 3-D models that can be used in Powerpoint. This feature makes their library perfect for anyone who would like to stick with Powerpoint but is searching for more suitable models for presenting their findings. All of their models are directly downloadable (on the downside; leaving certain details is required) and they offer several presentations to inspire you.

Their library can be found via this link

Other presentation tools you should know about

Animoto

In the rising world of video, being able to produce high-quality videos is a great asset to your company. Animoto is a cloud-based tool that can be used to create video’s helping you to present your story in a different and compelling way. The tool is not that difficult to use and offers several customizations to present your story in line with your corporate identity. While you could start with a blank canvas, it is also possible to use one of their templates and adapt it.

There are several free tools available but most of them are not that flexible. Animoto might not be free of charge but is very affordable. The tool costs 22 US Dollars a month for professionals and 34 US Dollars a month for companies.

More information can be found on www.animoto.com

Youtube Director

Youtube also wanted to create a tool for smaller companies and therefore created Youtube Director. It is officially made to create video ads but can also be used to present data in a compelling story. The tool is not as intuitive as Animoto but still easy enough to use. The downside of this tool is that it is only usable on YouTube and that the tool is only created to stimulate smaller companies to run campaigns on their platform. The upside is that you won’t be needing anything but a good phone (and some props) to use it (besides your marketing budget that is needed to actually run a campaign).

In the US, small companies can spend 150 US Dollars that will buy them the help of a filmmaker and help with selecting your audience.

More information about YouTube Director, can be found here

Canva

If you are somewhat up-to-speed in the world of visuals, you will have heard of Canva. This tool offers a wide variety of templates that help you create visuals for presentations, social media channels, posters, blogs or invites. Canva also offers a library filled with standard images that can be edited within the tool itself.

A basic account is offered for free, but most of their library items are reserved for Premium use and will set you back a Dollar per element. One could also choose their professional membership, which costs 10 US Dollars per month. This will enable you to use extra functionalities, like the possibility to adjust selections to your corporate styling and uploading your own corporate font.

More information about Canva can be found here

Visme

Visme is an online tool as well and offers the possibility to create visual presentations and reports. While the number of templates in their library is quite limited, the quality is much like that of your average PowerPoint presentation. It is easy to use and doesn’t require much programming knowledge, so in order for you to use it successfully, the only thing you will need is some pretty basic designer knowledge.

Like Canva, Visme has an extensive library filled with visual elements (although finding quality pieces is a challenge). This tool clearly needs to be some enhancements to really offer you all that you need, but it does come with some perks: like the possibility to create dynamic content.

Most of the business models of the online tools are based on a Freemium model, which means that your account will generally be free-of-charge but if you want to use their functionalities, you will have to pay up. The most expensive Visme membership costs 16 US Dollars a month, keeping it affordable.

More information about Visme can be found here

Did we forget to mention your favourite tool in our list? Let us know so we can update it to your liking!

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Maike
Marketing and Communication Specialist at TAS - Tells a Story
Maike van Oyen is a mother, friend, sister, daughter and dedicated communications and marketing specialist on the side. She has written many articles for several websites in both Dutch and English about Corporate Communications, Marketing, Change Management and HR.

Maike loves to sink her teeth into complex projects of change and has a good knowledge of communication on a strategical, tactical and an operational level. She is trained to work in hectic environments (she manages to write blogs while also doing the housework, watching 4 misguided missiles and working for TAS at the same time). And is used to finding creative solutions for every challenge.
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