This post is about describing my experiences reading a book: “Learning Responsive Data Visualization” by Christoph Körner.

What is it all about?

The book aims to explain the concepts and application of responsive data visualization technologies. It describes the famous CSS framework from Twitter “Bootstrap“, SVG graphics and the JavaScript visualization framework D3.js.

The book has 9 chapters: starting from a short introduction of the components in use, it quickly enables the user to create their first visualization and increases the level of detail and complexity systematically. Later, it describes a combined usage of these components and presents techniques on how to create more elaborate layouts and animations.

In the end,  the book motivates and explains how to test visualization applications, as well as outlines how to solve cross-browser issues.

About the Author

From Amazon

Christoph Körner, CTO and lead developer at GESIM, a start-up company, is a passionate software engineer, web enthusiast, and an active member of the JavaScript community with more than 5 years of experience in developing customer-oriented web applications. He is the author of Data Visualizations with D3 and AngularJS and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Visual Computing at Vienna Institute of Technology.

My opinion

Christoph uses short, concise descriptions. Instead of being verbose, he yields many links for further reading to official documentation or interesting blog entries by utilizing non-invasive text boxes throughout the chapters. The author understands how to direct the reader’s attention at the important parts of the technologies introduced.

Nevertheless, here and there, the author finishes a section with an outlook to an advanced topic that sometimes could have needed a little closer attention. An example of this can be found at the end of chapter 2, when the author mentions, that “D3 provided more useful methods on the generator functions”. He then names only one such method and describes it in one sentence. More useful would have been a small list of these methods or to provide yet another of the excellent code examples in the book.

What I really enjoyed is that the author follows the title of the book closely and visualizes not only the code examples but also graphically depicts the concepts and philosophy of the frameworks in use. This helped me a lot to understand the ideas.

One of the most important things of a textbook is to be simple and comprehensible. Christoph easily reaches these goals.

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Audience

In my opionon, you need some level of experience with HTML, CSS and JavaScript before you can get started.
Thus, I believe the book aims at developers of intermediate level. On the other hand, if you bring these prerequisites this book is aimed at beginners of D3.js.

Conclusion

At Amazon I rated the book with 4 stars: While I mentioned above, that I like that it is completely fact based and content focused, I kind of miss to get some historical information or funny side stories in footnotes or fact boxes. Instead, fact boxes are used efficiently to point to additional technical content. There are some rare 5-star-books out there that achieve to create this fine bridge of being educational and entertaining. “Learning Responsive Data Visualization” does not build this bridge, but delivers a solid book to teach yourself and others modern responsive data visualization.