With today’s announcement of the Google Charts API, anybody who can figure out how to use it can easily add charts to their site. The same way embedded maps became ubiquitous, now every site can apply basic information visualization.
Again, The Goog has chosen an expensive market and made it free. And again, they’ve made it just hard enough that it takes some work to use it.
When they released the Google Maps API, it had no way to convert addresses to latitude/longitude coordinates. With Charts, they make the publisher do the work of converting numbers to the right scale and granularity.
You can pass Google Charts numbers, but they probably can’t be your raw numbers. It’s basic math to convert your data into a scale for a chart, but computers are really good at basic math. I wish they did it for me.
In Google’s guidelines for granularity, they explain themselves a bit. They don’t want us sending queries for a graph thousands of data points long when it will only be shown in, say, 250 pixels.
Fair enough, but as it stands, it needs to be easier. For me to use their charts on the fly, I need to be able to pass my raw numbers in the URL. I can do that with this sparklines generator.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing all sorts of create-a-chart tools going up in the next few weeks. That will make it easier to add these simple charts to any web page.
Until then, break out your calculators. You have some basic math to do.