The D3 community is an inspiration to all of us at Observable. It’s been 12 years since our co-founder, Mike Bostock, created D3, the JavaScript library loved by many for its ability to produce dynamic, interactive, and stunning works of data visualization.

So while D3 is a staple among practitioners, it’s not always known how closely connected it is with Observable’s platform. Mike built Observable with D3 in mind. Further, Observable supports the power and complexities possible with D3 along with a community to learn from and share. With strong weekly engagement, there’s significant utility and impact for builders using D3.

Observable’s platform aims to bring developers and teams together so they can make data-driven decisions faster. In Observable, developers can work more quickly with useful starting points, such as reusable D3 examples from a large community of D3 practitioners.

This is one of the many reasons why the D3 community is so important to us.

Our commitment to D3 

Observable’s aim is to make developers’ lives easier with product features and functionality that accelerate insights and exploration of what can be done with data. We've taken intentional steps throughout September, like creating helpful videos and courses, to showcase what’s possible with D3 on the platform. Our recent efforts in Product Education shed light on the benefits of building with D3 on Observable. Some other points to consider:

  • We want to show you how to use D3 on Observable. When you build with D3 in Observable, you can instantly connect to your data, code faster than ever, and accelerate your team’s analysis.

  • We want to make it easier to learn D3. Observable’s coursework is intended to support the developer community to share and learn from each other.

  • We recognize we’re not the only source for D3 use. And we’re OK with that. The D3 community uses its tools for building, and we recognize and appreciate those preferences. If anything, we want the D3 community to see what’s possible on Observable, so you can decide on what’s best for your needs.

Reflecting on D3's origin and impact

When D3 celebrated its 10th anniversary, Mike put down some lasting thoughts that highlight the best ways to get value from D3. The “lessons learned,” as he called them, helped community members take inventory of what’s possible and how to maximize their time building.

It’s refreshing to look back at how his commentary rings true and speaks to the value created.

One of the most striking observations a few years later is how he articulated the cost of being too enamored with technical “whizbangery,” a nicely worded description from the creator on the visual impact that can be achieved through D3.

Mike always felt that interaction and animation had a huge impact on what was built with D3, especially for audiences who were familiar with the output. But Mike was quick to point out that the true spark for the building was the findings from the effort.

“Knowing this, you may be tempted to add these features to visualizations without fully appreciating the downsides, such as added complexity and hiding valuable information behind interactive controls,” he wrote. “And worse, because these features are often challenging to implement, they may distract from the far more important yet ‘boring’ task of finding and communicating insight!”

Ah, yes. The golden nugget, the insight. Thank you, Mike, for keeping it honest.

“This is not a moral judgment,” he added. “I’m not saying you’re bad for doing this. I’m guilty of this myself. But the pitfall is real. Focus on the static form first and foremost. This may be the only thing some readers see. Don’t allow technical matters (i.e., web development) to eat too much of your attention. And don’t fear plain visualizations: it’s the insight that matters, not whether it’s gussied up.”

So if plain visualizations are not to be feared, let’s continue to explore the possibilities of D3, with or without Observable, being the platform that enables the exploration. Observable remains committed to the D3 community. If you’re on the fence, or not quite an Observable user, consider signing up today to get started creating data visualizations and dashboards for free.