Charting Google's Way
September 14, 2014

Charting Google's Way

Daniel Ma | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 3 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

HTML5 / SVG

Overall Satisfaction with Google Charts

I used Google Charts to display data from Google Analytics. Our core service was providing personalized insights for web properties. Google Charts was a central piece of puzzle in building our product. It allowed us to help customers understand their web traffic in intuitive ways. We used it for everything from simple pie charts, to large tables.
  • It draws charts without bugs. I didn't run into a single one during my two years of working with it. This is a big advantage of using something that helps power a core Google service.
  • It has extensive documentation. Lots of options, lots of examples, lots of explanations. You'll never need to go digging through the source code trying to figure out how to do something.
  • It has a very predictable API. Once you learn to use it for one chart type, it's easy to begin building other charts.
  • It throws helpful errors. When something goes wrong, it's not difficult to figure out why.
  • It's not an extensible library. If you want to do something that isn't covered by it's feature set, there are no hooks to implement it yourself. If you're looking to choose it for a project, make sure it covers all your edge cases for visualization needs.
  • There are very limited options for visual styling. You get what they give you.
  • Tooltips are extremely limited. You can't add custom HTML. Plain text is all you get.
  • It doesn't have great support for dynamically updating charts. In our cases, when we wanted to update data, we removed the chart from the page and rebuilt it for updates
  • Highcharts,Raphael
When we were originally looking for a solution (back in 2012), we were choosing between Highcharts, Raphael, and Google Charts.

Raphael was out quickly because even though the front page shows demos of charts, it's really not a charting library. It's a generic drawing library. I've used it on other projects and it's great at what it does. It could even be a solid starting point for a custom charting library, but it wasn't right for us. We needed simple charts.

We ended up choosing Google Charts because it was free to use. Highcharts has a nice visual style, but since we were building our product at the time, we simply made sure that our UI would flow well with Google Charts.
Google Charts is a good product. It's widely supported with deep documentation and a large community. But for me, it wasn't customizable enough. When we started with simple charts, it was great, but as we got deeper and more complex, our needs outgrew the library. If I was going forward, I would choose a more barebones library with more freedom and extensibility.
Google Charts was used in 80% of our work. It was a piece of our core product.
Google Charts has good data structures and it's simple to use a JSON serializer to add data to the charts.

Data can be added from JSON Arrays of values or inserted row by row, so whether you have all the data ready at once or need to loop through values to add, it's simple.

As previously mentioned, I was not impressed by Google charts APIs to update charts that were already on the page. In my experience, the best way to get it to work with real time data is to redraw the charts with every new data set. This, however, is resource-intensive if there are many charts on the page
During our project, I wrote a custom library that converted our data structures into structures usable by Google Charts. My library was used all over our site to display a variety of data. It's easy to share knowledge and code snippets used for the library.
Google Charts is a strong visualization library. It has plenty of chart types and continues to add more. It's probably the most mature and advanced charting library I've ever seen.

It's not the most visually attractive, but in classic Google style, it's very clean. It keeps things simple and bright.
Google Charts will fit well if you need something that's strongly tested and backed by a corporate body. Google Charts is here to stay and will continue to be supported and grow as a product for as long as Google Analytics exists. It won't work well for you if you need a chart library that will deeply integrate with your visual style.