When I was starting out wanting to build a business, I had two criteria I was looking for in whatever technology I adopted for my purposes:

  1. Be easy to learn and use and allow me to be efficient (in my case, to create apps, visualizations and content quickly)
  2. Provide some hooks to add features and capabilities over time that I would need

I first came across WordPress (if you want to start a business these days, the first thing you need is a website and almost a quarter of the sites worldwide are powered by WordPress) and then AppSheet (if you want to spend less time and run your business efficiently, the first thing you need is a set of apps).

AppSheet is great for building apps because it needs no coding knowledge at all. However it does require some data modeling and user interface knowledge to create a good and robust app.

For content management, there are many options to build a website with very little coding required and WordPress is one. However, some knowledge of HTML, CSS etc. is required to create good websites that provide required functionality to publish content.

For charting and visualization, I have blogged before about using Tableau, Google charts and sheetsee.js. However, the last two require knowledge of one or both of Javascript and Google apps script. I am yet to decide on what tool I prefer for visualization that satisfies the two criteria I have. However, I think I am a little closer to deciding which one would work best for ease of use after I came across this – Interactive charts for WordPress. I think that Highcharts Cloud may be an excellent option that makes it possible to create charts without any coding knowledge.

A great thing about Highcharts Cloud is that you can directly specify your Google spreadsheet as a data source, publish your chart and share it via your app or any other way you choose.

There are some drawbacks to highcharts as compared to Tableau but for creating a majority of the typical business charts, it offers a comprehensive list of chart types.

In this post, I will share how I used the same data as used in my earlier post to build a chart using Highcharts Cloud.  Highcharts Cloud allows one to input data in 3 ways:

  1. As a Data table – this is essentially like entering data into a table in a word processor – it is not a very efficient way to create tables since it must be done one row at a time.
  2. As a CSV data – one can copy/paste a csv file into the data entry window
  3. As a Google Spreadsheet – one can enter the URL to the sheet on drive. This is a licensed feature and with the free account, saving of data in your account is disabled.

I thought the last option was the easiest for me to use but when I tried to use my sheets file, I was dismayed to find out that Highcharts allows text in the first row, which is used for series names, and in the first column, that is used for category names. It does not like text anywhere else – all other data should be numbers. So, I had to export my sheet to a CSV, change the Region from text to a number (I changed ‘North America’ to 1, ‘Europe’ to 2 and ‘Middle East’ to 3) and use that instead.

Some chart types work better for visualizing correlations than others. One type of chart that made sense for the data I was trying to visualize that is supported in Highcharts (among many other types of charts) is a bubblechart.

The size of the bubble in the bottom row is proportional to the population and the size of the circle in the top row is proportional to the fertility. However, because the population numbers are much higher than the fertility numbers, the difference in size of the bubbles in the top row are not clearly distiguishable. Since the chart is interactive, this difference can be seen if you turn off the display of the bottom row by clicking on Region in the legend at the bottom of the chart in the published chart that is shown below.


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