Researchers at the Center for Global Development had scraped data from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and needed a way to make the data available and present it in a user-friendly way. No real visualization was needed, so we settled on a datatable presentation that would allow users to sort the data and browse through it with custom filters.

Datatable.js is the platform I used for this. With its simplest implementation, you link to this jQuery plugin, and it finds any HTML table with the proper classname and converts it to a sortable datatable. This data set, however, was more complicated. For one, having a 1,500-row table in the DOM was not really an option; second, the custom filtering and display requirements brought some of the more advanced features of the platform into play.

Almost everything in this tool in handled client-side. The data really isn’t that big, at least not so big that it can’t be handled as one JSON object. The JavaScript defines the data, identifies the columns, and handles the filtering events. The ready-built platform handles the rest. It’s a great tool: easy to use in simple forms and completely extensible for more advanced applicatons. Great documentation, too.