The Datawrapper Roadmap for 2018

With a freshly opened office in Berlin and a bigger team it was about time to figure out the direction for the Datawrapper development over the next six months. That’s what this post is about.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the tl;dr:

  • We want to make Datawrapper run faster than ever and speed up chart rendering by letting you embed charts without iframes.
  • We’re going to fix all outstanding bugs! (Watch us!)
  • We’re building a new, more flexible chart editor!

Let’s look into the points in more detail.

Priority 1: Performance

Performance is our top priority right now. Over the past years, new features have been added to Datawrapper and the user base has been growing, while the core platform code essentially remained untouched. Now is the time to get the house back in order. It’s no fun to work with a tool that feels like it is slowing you down.

We already made some progress towards that goal over the past weeks. We migrated our database to a bigger server and optimized our code to reduce the overall database load per request. The effect of these changes on Datawrapper is so remarkable that we want to show you the plot:

For our users, this means that Datawrapper should feel at least twice as fast now! Of course, there are still some parts that need to be faster (the “My Charts” page, for instance!), so we’ll keep pushing in that direction.

Speeding up the chart rendering

Another important part of performance is the chart rendering. While iframes are a great technology to bring Datawrapper charts into many places on the internet, they always tend to feel a little slow to load.

Part of this is because browsers effectively open the iframed content in a new browser window. So going on a page with four iframes can feel like loading (and waiting for) five websites at the same time.

That’s why our next big goal is to provide a new way for embedding Datawrapper charts without iframes. This step will simplify responsive embedding significantly and also fix a few iframe-related bugs.

We aim for the first quarter in 2018 for this feature, so we have enough time to make sure our charts don’t accidentally break the embedding web page or vice versa. To increase compatibility, we will still offer the iframe embedding.

Priority 2: Bug fixes, bug fixes, bug fixes

Bug fixing is one of the less fun things to do in software development, especially if the code base is a couple of years old. Developers just want to rewrite everything from scratch to start fresh. Or just ignore the bugs and work on shiny new features instead.

That’s sort of what we did the last few years. The most pressing bugs got fixed, of course, but with a small team and thousands of users with a lot of different use cases, many of the smaller bugs have been left unfixed in our issue tracker.

Meanwhile our support team (Mirko and David) has been helping our users through this time of darkness, providing workarounds and promised that there is light at the end. And now it’s time to deliver and actually fix the bugs. All of them!

That’s why in our office we introduced bug-fix Friday. The rule is simple: every Friday, every developer must do nothing but fixing bugs.

To make it easier for our users to follow along this process we just launched the new Datawrapper changelog where we are compiling an up-to-date list of all bug fixes and major and minor changes as we release them.

Priority 3: Single page chart editor

Finally, third big priority until summer 2018 will be the very heart of Datawrapper: our chart editor. While we all love our good old 4-step process, there is no need to spread it all across different pages. Moving back and forth between the chart editor and the data table feels like too much work, so we move the steps together on one single page.

This will also allow us to be more flexible with how we structure the editor for different chart and map types. A workflow that works fine with bar charts might not be ideal for maps or tables. We already started going in this direction with the updated map editor we launched last year.

And what about new features?

If you were hoping for hot new feature announcements, don’t worry! We have a lot of exciting new features lined up, and we can’t wait to get there and tell you about it. But first things first.