DailyDev: Google Motion Chart

June 13, 2010

I checked out Google’s Motion Chart gadget — for illustrating changes in multiple variables over time — in school last fall but never produced a complete, functioning chart. Today I did. It visualizes each of the 32 World Cup nations’ per capita GDP, life expectancy and World Cup wins for the last half-century.

The steps:

Screengrab of Google Docs spreadsheet

  1. Following the format above, enter data into a Google Docs spreadsheet.
  2. From the “Insert” menu, choose “Gadget” and click on the “Motion Chart” option. For range, enter the top-left cell of your data set and the bottom-right cell of your data set (including field labels), like this: “Sheet1!A1:E193” Click “Apply”.
  3. Preview your chart, give it a title, choose what variables by default appear on which axis, fiddle with some other options, such as whether the scatter plots are colored or sized according to a variable. When you’re satisfied, click “Apply” one more time, then grab the embed code by clicking on the arrow in the upper-right corner of the gadget box and choosing “Publish Gadget.”

Finished Product

Screen grab of Google Motion Chart gadgetPros

  • Create revealing interactive charts without any coding.
  • Can import .csv files directly into the Google Docs spreadsheet, saving you from tedious data entry.
  • Chart automatically changes as your spreadsheet does.

DailyDev blog series logo -- day 8Cons

  • Requires large data sets to be effective.
  • Can improperly suggest correlation, causation or trends.
  • Minimal control over styling.

Tip

  • Don’t think of Google Motion Chart only as a presentation medium. It can be a useful reporting or research tool for spotting noteworthy patterns.

Recommend?

  • Yes, but only for visualizing data over significant time spans — whether you’re dealing in hours, days, months, years, you’re going to want a lot of reference points — where trends will be noticeable and meaningful.
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