Presenting data to your blog readers as straight text gets boring very quickly and it takes much longer for most people to understand tables and text descriptions. If you have a lot of data, you need to get the point across in an effective way, and charts can help.
Using charts taps into readers’ visual brain, helping them understand data quickly. Using WordPress plugins can simplify the process of creating charts from your data and inserting them in your blog.
This article will review the eight best WordPress chart plugins (split between six well established offerings and two up-and-comers) looking at the pros and cons of each, as well as the most suitable scenarios for their use.
With over ten thousand active installs and a 4.6 star satisfaction rating, Visualizer: Charts and Graphs is the most popular plugin in the WordPress plugin repository for creating, managing and embedding interactive charts into WordPress posts and pages.
Different types of data require different chart types, and Visualizer contains nine chart types to suit your needs, specifically:
Adding a chart to your site is done via the Visualizer Library, which is added under the WordPress Media Library. The data for your chart is pulled in from a CSV file, either uploaded directly or linked to online. The latter allows you to base your chart on a Google Spreadsheet, for example. The data types that are allowed include string, number, boolean, date, time date, and time of day. Once a chart is created, it is added to the post or page with a shortcode.
You can customize the charts to match your website through an extensive set of options, as the plugin is based on Google’s Visualization API. Each chart can also be edited after it is created, and the plugin makes it easy to clone an existing chart.
For users with custom needs, the Visualizer plugin enables you to write your own hooks for chart series and data filters, both global (applied to all charts before rendering) and custom (for specific charts).
Visualizer is a solid option for most charting needs based on existing data. But with the limited data types, you may find that you need more advanced data management, so check out our next selection.
As the name suggests, this plugin does more than just enable you to create charts; you can create manage and display data tables from the admin panel and create interactive charts and graphs. You will however need to purchase the PRO version for $29 to create charts from your tables.
The table functionality of this plugin is fully-featured. Adding a table is a simple matter of entering a title and the number of rows and columns you wish to start with. The plugin provides a spreadsheet-like editor which enables you to easily add rows and columns, enter data in the table (including images, links and formulas) and customize the basic formatting for data cells.
You can preview the tables right from a tab on the plugin screen, and you have access to the table’s CSS to customize the display completely. You can use the settings tab to set up certain features of the tables such as pagination and sorting.
The Pro version of the plugin enables importing and exporting data, but more importantly for our list, creating charts and diagrams from your data. Creating a chart starts by selecting the data in your table and clicking the Add diagram button.
Like the Visualizer plugin, several chart types are available, namely:
This plugin is a great option if you need to manage your data inside the WordPress administration, but the charting functionality is not much different to the Visualizer plugin as they use the same Google Visualization API, so it may not be worth paying for the Pro version is you plan to import your data anyway.
Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer produces feature-rich HTML tables
This next plugin takes a different approach by enabling you to embed data files in WordPress posts or pages as tables or charts. With over five thousand active installs and a 4.5 star satisfaction rating, the Inline Google Spreadsheets Viewer is a solid alternative for your chart needs.
Despite the name, the Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer can also display data stored in CSV files and MySQL databases, as well as data output from a Google Apps Script. Simply pasting the in a publicly available URL for any of the supported file formats (CSV, XLS, etc.) will generate a sorted searchable HTML table.
You can also use this plugin to display live previews of other file types like PDFs and Word docs. To do this, or to display your spreadsheet data as an interactive chart or graph, you use a gdoc shortcode, e.g. [gdoc key=”filename.url”]. The key specifies the document to be used. Other optional attributes include the chart type, chart colors and custom queries.
The types of charts you can generate include:
Custom queries enable you to interact with the data as if it were a standard relational database table. You can also select just the relevant segments of data to pull into a chart. The query language is based on the Google Charts API Query Language and is both powerful and flexible.
This plugin would be ideal if you need to pull in data from various file types for display or if you have complex charting queries to generate.
Up next on our list is amCharts, which has over one thousand active installs and a 5 star satisfaction rating. Though less popular, this plugin has received some great reviews.
Unlike most of the other plugins listed here, amCharts focuses on creating chart code snippets which can then be inserted into WordPress posts and pages as shortcodes. You can use either the amCharts hosted libraries or point the plugin at your local server to use alternate libraries.
The plugin includes the following charts by default:
There is no visual editor for the charts or data, but the code can be edited directly. You can also pass custom parameters into the shortcode and reference them in the chart’s code.
Next is RJ Quickcharts, with over one thousand active installs and a 4.8 star satisfaction rating. Although it was last updated a year ago (and you should approach with caution accordingly), this plugin enables you to create beautiful HTML5 charts which are built and updated as you enter the data.
To use RJ Quickcharts, you first decide the type of chart you want to create. The chart types available are limited to:
You only have a few settings to configure for your chart, like the legend display, titles for the axes and the colors to use in the chart. You then enter your data in the spreadsheet interface below the chart setup.
The plugin does provide some sample data so you can see how to setup your data table. The chart preview is generated and updated dynamically as you enter the data. Hit Save when you are finished and the chart is ready to be inserted via the Add Media button in the post editor.
If you have very simple charts to add to your site based on small datasets, this plugin offers an easy way to get started.
wpDataTables enables you to easily create beautiful interactive charts from your data
The first solely premium plugin on our list, wpDataTables is a strong contender. With over five thousand sales and a 4.5 star rating, at $29 this plugin is definitely worth checking out. They say that over four thousand sites have the plugin in use, so you will not be alone in trying out this complete table and chart manager.
After activating this table, your first step will be to create or upload your data. wpDataTables enables you to use existing data in any one of several formats: Google Spreadsheet, Excel file, CSV, XML, JSON, or even MySQL queries, and has a Query Constructor to fetch custom data from your sources. You can also create the table manually inside the WordPress administration.
The table designs can be completely customized using the settings provided by the plugin, with no need for CSS. You can also set up responsiveness by selecting specific elements for display on different devices.
The data in both MySQL and manually created tables can be edited both in the WordPress administration but also from a front end form you create. User access for editing can be restricted to just the rows a user entered.
Using the Highcharts library (free for non-commercial use), adds the following chart types:
Developers can customize the plugin through provided WordPress actions and filters, so if the plugin is actually missing some behavior that you need (though it is very comprehensive), you can add it yourself.
Considering its flexibility, customization and the wide range of chart types available, this plugin is a great option if you are willing to pay for it.
These next two plugins are not yet widely used, but have a solid number of installs and good reviews, so may be worth considering for your needs.
Create HTML5 animated charts easily with Responsive Charts
The other premium chart plugin we chose to look at is not as popular as wpDataTables, with only 560 sales. But the 4.57 star rating and the beautiful animated charts made us want to take a look at Responsive Charts. For $15, it may be worth considering if the free plugins are not meeting your needs.
Similar to RJ Quickcharts described above, to use Responsive Charts you first create a chart and configure its settings. The chart types available to you are:
Each chart type has customizable styling for labels, tooltips and colors. There is no preview chart provided, so you will need to save your settings and move on to the data before you can view the effects of your customizations.
The main data set for the plugin can be imported from a CSV file, though you can add individual options using text fields provided. Additional data sets can be added manually if you are using line or bar charts. This enables you to show some data comparison in your chart.
Once you are satisfied and save your chart and its data, a shortcode is provided that you can copy and paste into your WordPress pages or posts.
This plugin is a simple way to create charts and is not very expensive, so if you need animated charts, it may be a good option for you.
With just over two hundred active installs, the final entry on our list, M Chart, is not very widely used or well-known yet. But the early 4.7 star satisfaction rating suggests it is not to be counted out. By providing a simple way to add and edit data in the WordPress administration and add the resulting chart to posts and pages, M Chart has a good start.
Similar to the Data Tables Generator we looked at before, M Chart enables you to input your data in a spreadsheet interface from within the WordPress administration. You can then select from the six types of charts offered by M Chart:
Each chart type has options to configure the display, such as labels for the axes.
Instead of entering the data yourself, you can import a CSV file. Additionally, M Chart has export functionality built in, so you can export your data and use in another application, or even another WordPress site.
Charts are inserted into WordPress posts and pages using a shortcode that is generated when a chart is created. You can either copy and paste the shortcode directly, or insert the chart from the Add Media panel when editing a post or page.
M Chart is not as fully featured as the Data Tables Generator plugin, but it is completely free and so may be worth considering if you want to manage your data and charts within the WordPress administration interface.
As we said before, charts are a great way to present data to your audience in an engaging way. Choosing the right WordPress chart plugin will depend on the type of data you’re presenting and the charts you need. Other factors to consider are the data sources you need to work with and how you want to work with the data.
If you have very simple data and don’t need much beyond basic charts, you can start off with RJ Quickcharts. M Charts may be a better fit if you want to instead upload your data. If you are willing to pay for a solution and animated charts will add to your data presentation, Responsive Charts is a good option for you.
If you have more advanced data management needs and want a wider range of data types available to you, Data Tables Generator may be worth checking out. But if you’re going to have to pay for the charts functionality anyway, wpDataTables is a stronger paid option, especially with the advanced features it offers like the front-end data editing and custom actions and filters.
If you have data in multiple files in various formats, both wpDataTables and the Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer are good options, depending on how you want to work with the data. Both plugins offer custom queries to pull data for your charts, so try the Inline Google Spreadsheet Viewer first since it’s free.
Plain text or tabular data is difficult for most people to grasp quickly and can be a turnoff for your readers. Charts are a good way to present data in an easily digestible format and get your point across.
Whether you are looking for a simple plugin to insert a one-off chart or you need a more extensive data table manager, you should be able to find a suitable plugin in our list above to make your data come alive for your readers.
We have tried to cover the best options for WordPress chart plugins, but there may be others we have missed. Comment below and share your experiences with these plugins or add any you feel were left out!