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I work for a non-tech company and am getting lots of requests for "portals" and complaints about how our SSRS reports look, so I was poking around for some quick data visualization products that look slick and shiny for the business, but are going to be easy to write and manage.

I found this: http://www.componentart.com/products/dv/

We don't currently use silverlight anywhere and that makes me hesitant, but these have the right look and feel for the users i'm dealing with.

Any one have any experience with this product, or any suggestions for something similar?

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I would recommend don't visualize the data, instead visualize the process the data goes through to give them the result they want. This way, you keep how the software program works under the hood away from ignorant people. –  Chad May 13 '11 at 1:33
Chad, these users don't care about the process, and they aren't going to be doing any of the development. They just want pretty charts and graphs of our company's data and apparently Excel and SSRS aren't pretty enough. –  kscott May 13 '11 at 16:02
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4 Answers

It would be a better investment of your time and money to get a good book about data visualization. Otherwise, a toolkit like ComponentArt will just help you make shinier versions of the same useless visualizations you're making now. Often enough, toolkits like this even make things worse, because they offer various diagram types (like 3d rings) that look very pretty but are completely unreadable.


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These are all really great resources, and I'm ordering some of them now. But what technologies do you use to render these for users? –  kscott May 13 '11 at 16:08
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I haven't had to use any since I do mostly app work, rather than data, but you'll find some VERY good examples in http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/.

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Have you considered outsourcing the design? I've found that even Excel (in the right hands... not mine!) can make some decent graphs. Generally, you will sit with the consultant and review what you need, how the data will get "fed into the graphs and maintained" and also the visual style preferences.

If nothing else, seeing the cost (this doesn't need to be $100,000 or anything, but it won't be $1,000 either...) will help refine the actual need. If the reports are a huge marketing tool, or a big differentiator, then you probably -want- a professional to do them. If they are just "nice informational graphics" then you may find more interest in the cheaper solutions.

Putting a price tag on the graphs will tighten up the requirements with a quickness :-)

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I've known folks who've used and I personally like and can recommend http://www.highcharts.com/

You quite possibly interacted with them already.

Mouse over those examples on the home page to immediately see the interactivity. Plus check out some examples of the basic, area, columns, pie and combo charts.

Also if you change other components in your technology stack, this could stay fairly constant.

A single developer license is $360

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