First Graphics App

A step-by-step guide to publishing a standalone story from a dataset.

This tutorial will show you how journalists at America’s top news organizations escape rigid content-management systems to publish custom interactive graphics on deadline. You will get hands-on experience in every stage of the development process, writing JavaScript, HTML and CSS within a Node.js framework. You won’t stop until you’ve deployed a working application on the World Wide Web.

What you will make

By the end of this lesson, you will publish a standalone page with a series of graphics examining the high homicide rate in Harvard Park, a small neighborhood in South Los Angeles. You will do so by repurposing data from a 2017 Los Angeles Times story by Nicole Santa Cruz and Cindy Chang.

A working example of what you will make can be found at ireapps.github.io/first-graphics-app/

_images/preview.gif

About the authors

This guide was prepared for training sessions of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) by Dana Amihere, Armand Emamdjomeh and Ben Welsh. It will debut in March 2017 at NICAR’s conference in Chicago.

Their work was inspired by the footloose spirit of funk music. We urge you to bust free of the computer systems that constrain your creativity. Hit play and get into the groove.

Prelude: Prerequisites

Before you can begin, your computer needs the following tools installed and working:

  1. A command-line interface to interact with your computer
  2. A text editor to work with plain text files
  3. Version 8.9.4 or greater of the Node.js JavaScript runtime
  4. The npm package manager
  5. Git version control software and an account at GitHub.com

Warning

Stop and make sure you have all these tools installed and working properly. Otherwise, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Command-line interface

Unless something is wrong with your computer, there should be a way to open a window that lets you type in commands. Different operating systems give this tool slightly different names, but they all have some form of it.

On Windows you can find the command-line interface by opening the “command prompt.” Here are instructions. On Apple computers, you open the “Terminal” application. Ubuntu Linux comes with a program of the same name.

Text editor

A program like Microsoft Word, which can do all sorts of text formatting like change the size and color of words, is not what you need. Do not try to use it.

You need a program that works with simple “plain text” files, and is therefore capable of editing documents containing Python code, HTML markup and other languages without dressing them up by adding anything extra. Such programs are easy to find and some of the best ones are free, including those below.

For Windows, we recommend installing Notepad++ or Visual Studio Code. For Apple computers, try Atom or Sublime Text. In Ubuntu Linux you can stick with the pre-installed gedit text editor or install a more sophisticated tool like Atom.

Node.js

Node.js is an open-source programming framework built using JavaScript. Many programmers like it because it allows them to write JavaScript not just in their browser for “front-end” tasks, but also in the terminal or on a server for “back-end” tasks.

You should be on the latest long-term support (LTS) version of Node, which at the time of this writing was 8.9.4. The Node.js site has installer packages available for Windows and Mac OSX.

You can verify if you have Node installed, and if so what version, by typing the following into your terminal:

$ node --version

The number you get back is the version you have installed. If you get an error, you don’t have Node.js installed and you should start from scratch with an installer package. If you have a slightly older version, you are probably okay. But we make no guarantees. Consider upgrading.

npm

Installing Node will also install npm on your computer, which stands for “Node Package Manager.” During the class, we will use it to install open-source JavaScript packages that will help us draw charts and maps.

You can verify you have npm installed by running the following command on your terminal.

$ npm --version

Git and GitHub

Git is a version control program for saving the changes you make to files over time. This is useful when you’re working on your own, but quickly becomes essential with large software projects when you work with other developers.

GitHub is a website that hosts git code repositories, both public and private. It comes with many helpful tools for reviewing code and managing projects. It also has some extra tricks that make it easy to publish web pages, which we will use later. GitHub offers helpful guides for installing Git for Windows, Macs and Linux.

You can verify Git is installed from your command line like so:

$ git --version

Once that’s done, you should create an account at GitHub, if you don’t already have one. The free plan is all that’s required to complete this lesson. If you make a new account, make sure to confirm your email address with GitHub. We’ll need that for something later.

Chapter 1: Hello Git

First things first. It always helps to store all your code in the same place, instead of haphazard folders around your computer. This way, you always know where to look if you need to find a project.

In this case, let’s call that directory Code.

# You don't have to type the "$" It's just a generic symbol
# geeks use to show they're working on the command line.
$ mkdir Code

You can use the cd command to “change directory” into the directory we created.

# You don't have to type the "$" It's just a generic symbol
# geeks use to show they're working on the command line.
$ cd Code

Then, create a new directory where we can store the code for the project we’re going to build today. Name it after our application.

$ mkdir first-graphics-app

Now, use cd again to enter the the directory you just created.

$ cd first-graphics-app

Use the command git init to create a new Git repository in the current directory. This will be the root of our version-controlled project.

# "." is a common shortcut to refer to the current directory from the terminal
$ git init .

Visit GitHub and create a new public repository named first-graphics-app. Don’t check “Initialize with README.” You’ll want to start with a blank repository.

_images/new-repo.png

Then connect your local directory to GitHub with the following command. Replace <yourusername> with your GitHub user name.

$ git remote add origin https://github.com/<yourusername>/first-graphics-app.git

Create your first file, a blank README with a Markdown file extension since that’s the preferred format of GitHub. The filename will be README.md. Markdown is a simple way of writing nicely formatted text, complete with headlines, links and images.

# Macs or Linux:
$ touch README.md

# On Windows, fire it up in your text editor right away:
$ start notepad++ README.md

Open up the README in your text editor and type something in it. Maybe something like:

My first graphics app
=====================

Make sure to save it. Then officially add the file to your repository for tracking with Git’s add command.

$ git add README.md

Log its creation with Git’s commit command. You can include a personalized message after the -m flag. If you’re on a Windows machine, make sure you use double quotes around your commit message.

$ git commit -m "First commit"

If this is your first time using Git, you may be prompted to configure you name and email. If so, take the time now. Then run the commit command above again.

$ git config --global user.email "your@email.com"
$ git config --global user.name "your name"

Now, finally, push your commit up to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

You just created your first code commit! Reload your repository on GitHub and see your handiwork.

_images/first-commit.png

Chapter 2: Hello framework

Now that we have our Git repository created, we’re going to start installing the tools we need to do our job.

The first and more important is a framework. What’s that? Nothing more than fancy name for a set of software tools that, working together, can stand up a website. Believe it or not, it takes dozens of different things to pull a good site together. Frameworks aim to make the challenge easier by organizing a curated set of tools into a system that saves programmers time.

There are a lot of different frameworks out there. Maybe you’ve heard of some them, like Django for Python or Rails for Ruby.

Note

While some frameworks are more popular than others, each newsroom tends to go its own way with a custom system for publishing pages. The programming languages and the details vary, but the fundamentals are almost all the same. Some of them have even been released as open-source software. They include:

Node.js is so fancy it has more than plain old frameworks. It even includes a framework for create frameworks! It’s called Yeoman. It offers a “generator” system that makes it easier for publishers to tailor the framework to their site, without having to reinvent all the wheels themselves.

We’ll start by installing Yeoman using the Node Package Manager (npm), which can visit the Internet to download and install any of the thousands of open-source Node.js packages listed in its directory.

$ npm install -g yo

The -g means that we’re installing the packages globally. You’ll be able to run these from any directory on your computer.

Next we’ll install Gulp, a helpful Node.js utility for running a framework on your computer as you develop a site. Again, we turn to npm.

$ npm install -g gulp

Finally, we use npm to install yeogurt, our project generator that yeoman will build. It includes dozens of customizations of the Yeoman system created by its author to help us build websites. It can’t do everything a full-featured newsroom framework might. But it can do a lot, and enough for us to achieve our goals for this class.

$ npm install -g generator-yeogurt

Create a new project using our yeogurt generator as the guide.

$ yo yeogurt

After you run the command, you will be asked a series of questions. Pay close attention because you will need to choose the proper options to continue with our tutorial, and some of the correct selections are not the default choice.

_images/yo.png
  1. Your project name should be the slug “first-graphics-app”
  2. The HTML preprocessor you choose must be “Nunjucks.”
  3. The JavaScript preprocessor your choose must be “ES6 (Using Babel)”
  4. Styles must be written with “Sass”
  5. The Sass syntax must be “Scss”

Don’t sweat the rest. But make sure you get the above right.

Yeoman will then use the generator to create a complete project that’s ready for us to work in. Take a look at the folders its created in the src directory. That’s the framework offering your a comfortable place to do your work. Let’s get in there set up shop.

First, fire up its test server to see what it has to offer out of the box.

$ gulp serve

Visit localhost:3000 in your browser. There you can see the generic website offered as a starting point by our Yeoman generator.

_images/welcome.png

Congratulations, you’ve got your framework up and running. Let’s save our work and then we’ll be ready to start developing our own content.

Open a second terminal (this way you can keep your server running) and navigate to your code folder.

$ cd Code
$ cd first-graphics-app

Commit our work.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Installed framework"

Push it to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

Chapter 3: Hello template

Navigate back to localhost:3000 in your browser. You should see the same default homepage as before.

_images/welcome.png

Its contents is configured in the index.nunjucks file found in the directory Yeoman created. It uses a templating language for JavaScript invented at Mozilla called Nunjucks.

You can edit the page by changing what’s found inside of the content block. Make a change and save the file.

{% block content %}
<p>Hello World</p>
{% endblock %}

You should see it immediately show up thanks to a BrowserSync, a popular feature of Gulp that automatically updates your test site after you make a change.

_images/hello-world.png

Look closely at the index file you and will notice that it doesn’t include code for much of what you can see on the live page. For instance, you won’t see the HTML of the navigation bar or the stylesheets that dicatate how the page looks.

That’s because that boilerplate has been moved back into a parent template “extended” by the index file with a line of Nunjucks code at the top of the page.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

That “base” file, sometimes called the “layout,” can be inherited by other pages on your site to avoid duplication and share common code. One change to a parent file instantly ripples out to all pages the extend it. This approach to “template inheritance” is not just found in Nunjucks. It can be found in other templating systems, including Python ones like Django and Jinja.

You can find the base layout packaged with our framework in the _layouts/base.nunjucks file. It includes a set of block tags, like content, that act as placeholders for use in templates that extend it.

Make a small change above the block and save the file.

Above content
{% block content %}{% endblock %}

You should see the change on our site, with the new line appearing above the paragraph we added earlier to the index file.

_images/above-content.png

Most newsrooms that use a similar system have a own base template for all of their custom pages. Graphic artists and designers install and extend it as the first step in their work. They develop their custom page within its confines and largely accept the furniture it provides, like the site’s header and footer, fonts, common color schemes. This allows them to work more quickly because they do not have to bother with reinventing their site’s most common elements.

Note

While most newsrooms keep their base templates to themselves, a few have published them as open-source software. You can find them online, if you know where to look. They include:

For this class, we have developed a base template that will act as a proxy for a real newsroom’s base template. It is not as sophisticated or complete as a real-world example, but it will provide all of the basic elements we will need for this class.

You can find it in the code block below. Copy all of its contents and paste them into _layouts/base.nunjucks, replacing everything.

<!doctype html>
<html lang="en">
<head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <title>First Graphics App</title>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://maxcdn.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/4.0.0/css/bootstrap.min.css">
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="styles/main.css">
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://bl.ocks.org/palewire/raw/1035cd306a2f85b362b1a20ce315b8eb/base.css?rev=8">
    {% block stylesheets %}{% endblock %}
</head>
<body>
    <nav>
        <a href="http://first-graphics-app.readthedocs.org/">
            <img src="https://bl.ocks.org/palewire/raw/1035cd306a2f85b362b1a20ce315b8eb/ire-logo.png">
        </a>
    </nav>
    <header>
        <h1>{% block headline %}{% endblock %}</h1>
        <div class="byline">
            {% block byline %}{% endblock %}
        </div>
        <div class="pubdate">
            {% block pubdate %}{% endblock %}
        </div>
    </header>
    {% block content %}{% endblock %}
    {% block scripts %}{% endblock %}
    <script src="scripts/main.js"></script>
</body>
</html>

As you can see, it includes all of the standard HTML tags, with our custom stylesheets and content blocks mixed in.

To see the effects, return to index.nunjucks and fill in a headline using the headline block introduced by our base template. Save the page and you should quickly see it appear on the page.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}My headline will go here{% endblock %}
_images/headline.png

Now fill in a byline.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}My headline will go here{% endblock %}
{% block byline %}By me{% endblock %}
_images/byline.png

And let’s do the publication date too while we are at it.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}My headline will go here{% endblock %}
{% block byline %}By me{% endblock %}
{% block pubdate %}
    <time datetime="2018-03-10" pubdate>Mar. 10, 2018</time>
{% endblock %}
_images/pubdate.png

Congratulations, you’ve installed a base template and started in on creating your first custom page. Now is another good time to pause and commit our work.

$ git add .
# ☝️ A fun trick to add *all* of the pages you've changed with one command. ☝️
$ git commit -m "Started editing templates"

And, again, push it to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

Note

You’ll notice that the all of the sub folders in the src/ directory of your project have underscores _ in front of their name. This convention is used to note that these files are private, and won’t be deployed.

Instead, Gulp processes the contents of these folders when it builds the project and serves the files from a tmp/ folder, where you’ll see unprefixed images/, scripts/ and styles/ directories.

Chapter 4: Hello data

We’ve got our page all set up. Now it’s time to start telling our story. To do that, we need our data.

If we were writing this application entirely in the browser with traditional JavaScript we’d have to pull it in with dynamic “AJAX” calls that retrieve data over the web as the page is constructed. But since we’re working with a Node.js system, running code here the backend, we can import our data directly into the template instead and lay it out before the page is rendered in the browser. This results in a faster experience for our users, and opens up new ways for us to be creative with our data.

Every newsroom’s system will handle this differently. Our Yeoman generator is preconfigured to open all JSON data files in the _data and import them into our nunjucks templates.

Let’s give it a try. Grab the list of Harvard Park homicides published by the Los Angeles Times and save it to _data/harvard_park_homicides.json. It includes every homicide victim in the neighborhood since 2000 in the JSON data format favored by JavaScript.

[
   {
      "case_number":"2017-04514",
      "slug":"eddie-rosendo-lino",
      "first_name":"Eddie",
      "middle_name":"Rosendo",
      "last_name":"Lino",
      "death_date":"2017-06-18T00:00:00.000Z",
      "death_year":2017,
      "age":23.0,
      "race":"black",
      "gender":"male",
      "image":null,
      "longitude":-118.304107484,
      "latitude":33.9904336958
   },
   {
      "case_number":"2017-03454",
      "slug":"alex-david-lomeli",
      "first_name":"Alex",
      "middle_name":"David",
      "last_name":"Lomeli",
      "death_date":"2017-05-07T00:00:00.000Z",
      "death_year":2017,
      "age":18.0,
      "race":"latino",
      "gender":"male",
      "image":null,
      "longitude":-118.300290584,
      "latitude":33.9793646958
   },
   ...

Return to index.nunjucks and add the following to the bottom to print the data out on the page. We can do that using the {{ }} print tags provided by nunjucks.

{% block content %}
    {{ site.data.harvard_park_homicides }}
{% endblock %}

Here’s what you should see.

_images/data-dump.png

Loop through them and print them all. We’ll use the {% %} template tags provided by nunjucks that let you use common computer programming logic when you’re laying out a page.

{% block content %}
{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    {{ obj }}
{% endfor %}
{% endblock %}
_images/data-dump.png

Add a line break with a <br> tag. That’s just boring old HTML. Writing pages with a templating language like nunjucks is typically nothing more than mixing traditional HTML with the programming and print tags that negotiate your data files and other settings variables.

{% block content %}
{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    {{ obj }}<br>
{% endfor %}
{% endblock %}
_images/hello-loop.png

All of the fields found in the JSON dictionary for each homicide are available by adding a . after the object. Try it by printing the last name.

{% block content %}
{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    {{ obj.last_name }}<br>
{% endfor %}
{% endblock %}
_images/hello-last-name.png

Add the first name. To have them display more nicely, you can also add a line break in between each one.

{% block content %}
{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    {{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}<br>
{% endfor %}
{% endblock %}
_images/hello-full-name.png

Commit our work.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Printed a list of names from data"

Push it to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

Chapter 5: Hello cards

Bootstrap is an HTML, CSS and JavaScript toolkit that you can use to create the cosmetic “front-end” of web applications. Bootstrap is made up of different pre-made, ready-to-use pieces called components. Think of Bootstrap as building blocks you can mix and match to help jumpstart a project. Its components can be used as-is or as a base to be customized by the developer.

The components library includes things that you might include in a project, like buttons, modals and dropdowns.

_images/bootstrap.png

We’re going to create a photo grid of the Harvard Park homicide victims’ pictures. Each grid block will have a picture and some basic information about the victim. We’re going to use the Bootstrap 4 “cards” component accomplish this. Cards are self-contained boxes of information which can be arranged and grouped on a page any way you want.

_images/bootstrap-cols.png

First, need to set up our grid. To do that, we need to talk about divs, or the building blocks of HTML. The simplest way to think of a div is as container. Like any container, divs hold things. Divs can be nested inside of each other, like putting a box inside a box.

This is how Bootstrap cards work. Each card is a container which has additional containers inside it to hold, in this case, a picture, the victim’s name, age, race and when he/she was killed.

Now that we understand divs, we can build the base of our grid. For this, we’ll need a container div for each victim. We’ll add just the name of the first and last name of each victim first.

{% block content %}
{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
      </div>
    </div>
{% endfor %}
{% endblock %}
_images/cards-first.png

Let’s add a sentence below the name we just printed to summarize who each victim was and when they died.

{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
{% endfor %}

Let’s add each victim’s image to their card.

{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      <img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
{% endfor %}
_images/card-no-columns.png

What do we do if there is no image of the victim? As soon as the code reaches a victim with no image, the code will break.

To fix this, let’s add an if clause around the image tag to check for an image in the data. This way, our code will loop through the list of victims and <em>if</em> there is an image, it will add it to the right card. If there isn’t, the code will move on to the next victim until it reaches the end of the list.

{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
{% endfor %}

What we’ve got so far is a grid that doesn’t look much like a grid. Let’s give it some structure to make it neat and tidy. To do that, we’re going to arrange our grid of cards using Bootstrap’s card columns.

<div class="card-columns">
    {% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
    {% endfor %}
</div>

We want to be able to click on each card and be redirected to that victim’s page in the Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report? Let’s do it! While we’re at it, let’s add some <strong> tags to the victims’ names to make them stand out from the sentence about them.

<div class="card-columns">
    {% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/post/{{ obj.slug }}" target="_blank"><strong><h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5></strong></a>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
    {% endfor %}
</div>
_images/card-slug.png

Let’s write a headline for our cards section.

<h3>Lives lost</h3>
<div class="card-columns">
    {% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/post/{{ obj.slug }}" target="_blank"><strong><h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5></strong></a>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
    {% endfor %}
</div>
_images/card-headline.png

And now, some summary text.

<h3>Lives lost in Harvard Park</h3>
<p>The {{ site.data.harvard_park_homicides|length }} homicides in Harvard Park since 2000 were primarily black and Latino males, but the list includes husbands, wives, fathers, mothers of all ages, and even some small children.</p>
<div class="card-columns">
    {% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/post/{{ obj.slug }}" target="_blank"><strong><h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5></strong></a>
        <p class="card-text">{{ obj.last_name }}, a {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }}, died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
    {% endfor %}
</div>

Let’s set up our card grid as it’s own section by adding <section> tags.

_images/card-full-section.png

Let’s commit our work for this section.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Created a victims card grid"

Push it to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

Chapter 6: Hello charts

We have data, but what does it look like?

To visualize our data, we’re going to use plotly.js. Plotly.js is an open source library built on top of the popular D3 library, which powers a lot of the news graphics made with JavaScript you see online.

Note

You’ve probably heard of the D3, the data visualization library by Mike Bostock. Why aren’t we using it? It’s an incredibly powerful tool, but a little too complex for making simple bar charts on your first day writing JavaScript. Instead we’re going to use a library that simplifies the tools provided by D3 into something that’s easier to use.

First, use npm to install plotly.js.

$ npm install -s plotly.js

The -s argument saves plotly to a dependencies file. That way, if you ever need to go through the install steps for your app again, you can do so easily.

From here, we’ll be working in our _scripts folder. Create a file called _charts.js inside of _scripts/.

You can include the libraries we installed (or any JavaScript file!) by using require(). Plotly is a HUGE library, so we’re only going to import the parts of it that we need.

var Plotly = require('plotly.js/lib/core');
var Plotlybar = require('plotly.js/lib/bar');

Plotly.register(Plotlybar);

// At the end of the _charts.js file
console.log('hello, this is my charts file!')

Remember our underscore coding convention? Here, _charts.js has an underscore (_) in front of it because it will be compiled into main.js when the site is baked.

That is, if we tell it to. Use the same require() method to pull our code into main.js. Unlike _charts.js, main.js doesn’t have an underscore, because it is the file that the other scripts will be pulled into.

// Main javascript entry point
// Should handle bootstrapping/starting application

'use strict';

import $ from 'jquery';
import Link from '../_modules/link/link';

$(() => {
  new Link(); // Activate Link modules logic
  console.log('Welcome to Yeogurt!');
});

var chart = require('./_charts.js');

Structuring our code this way helps keep things organized, as each file controls one specific part of the page. Need to make an adjustment to your chart? Go to _charts.js.

Now if you reload your page and go to your inspector (click on the three dots in the top right of Chrome, go down to “More tools” and select “Developer tools”), you should see hello, this is my charts file! in the console.

_images/hello-charts.png

What chart should we make? The story points out that Harvard Park experienced an increase in homicides as there was a decrease across the rest of the county. Let’s try to visualize that.

First, we need somewhere for our charts to go. In our index.nunjucks file, inside of {% block content %} where you want the chart to go, create a div element with an id of county-homicides, and another with an id of harvard-park-homicides.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}My headline will go here{% endblock %}
{% block byline %}By me{% endblock %}
{% block pubdate %}
    <time datetime="2018-03-10" pubdate>Mar. 10, 2018</time>
{% endblock %}

{% block content %}

<div id="county-homicides"></div>
<div id="harvard-park-homicides"></div>

{% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
<div class="card-columns">
    {% for obj in site.data.harvard_park_homicides %}
    <div class="card">
      {% if obj.image %}<img class="card-img-top" src="{{ obj.image }}">{% endif %}
      <div class="card-body">
        <h5 class="card-title">{{ obj.first_name }} {{ obj.last_name }}</h5>
        <p class="card-text">A {{ obj.age}}-year-old {{ obj.race }} {{ obj.gender }} died in {{ obj.death_year }}.</p>
      </div>
    </div>
    {% endfor %}
</div>
{% endfor %}

{% endblock %}

Meanwhile, we need data. Copy the annual totals data to _data/annual_totals.json. This file contains annual homicide counts for Harvard Park and all of Los Angeles County. We can use nunjucks to include our data file directly in the template.

Add a {% scripts %} block to the end of your index.nunjucks file:

{% block scripts %}
<script>
var annualTotals = {% include '_data/annual_totals.json' %};
</script>
{% endblock %}

Making a chart in Plotly is simple, but we have to do some data transformation first. Plotly wants the x and y values of the chart to be in arrays, which are like a list of values. Meanwhle, if you look in _data/annual_totals.json, you’ll see that the data is structured in JavaScript objects, like this:

{
   "year":2000,
   "homicides_total":1036,
   "homicides_harvard_park":3
},
{
   "year":2001,
   "homicides_total":1125,
   "homicides_harvard_park":2
},
...

We want to make two charts - one of county homicides and one of killings in Harvard Park. So let’s make arrays that will hold those values that we will then provide to our function, as well as the years. We can use a little bit of JavaScript shorthand for this, using the .map() method and “arrow” functions.

var Plotly = require('plotly.js/lib/core');
var Plotlybar = require('plotly.js/lib/bar');

Plotly.register(Plotlybar);

// Initialize the arrays that will hold our lists of data
var countyHomicides = annualTotals.map(a => a.homicides_total);
var harvardParkHomicides = annualTotals.map(a => a.homicides_harvard_park);
var years = annualTotals.map(a => a.year);

The .map() creates and returns an array, and the arrow (=>) function returns the value for each object. Think of it as “plucking” the values we want to form a list.

Now that we’ve populated our data, we’re ready to make our chart. Right now, it’s pretty simple, with a single variable settings providing options for the x axis, which we want to be our years array, and y axis, which is our homicide counts, and specifying the type of the chart.

Below settings we call Plotly.newPlot() with the id of the element where we want the chart to go and settings to create the chart.

// The rest of your code is up here.
// Add the below lines to the bottom of your file

// Use our x and y arrays for the values of the chart
var settings = [{
    x: years,
    y: countyHomicides,
    type: 'bar'
}];

// Create the chart
Plotly.newPlot('county-homicides', settings);

You should see something like this on your page.

_images/first-chart.png

This is a good start, but we can further customize this chart so it fits better with the rest of the page. Now, let’s try to:

  • Add axis labels
  • Change the colors of the bars
  • Give the charts titles
  • Display the two charts alongside one another

Let’s add labels to our axes. Create a new variable, layout. Here, we can specify display properties for xaxis and yaxis. We don’t have a homicide label on the Y axis because we’ll add a title to the charts later that will take care of that.

var layout = {
    xaxis: {
        title: 'Year',
        fixedrange: true
    },
    yaxis: {
        fixedrange: true
    }
};

The option fixedrange prevents clicking to zoom in on the chart, which I find mildly annoying.

Then, add layout as a third argument to Plotly.newPlot()

Plotly.newPlot('county-homicides', settings, layout);
_images/charts-2.png

Everything in plotly.js is handled by settings like this. For example, to change the markers to an light blue, update the settings variable. Make sure you add a comma after type: 'bar'.

var settings = [{
  x: years,
  y: countyHomicides,
  type: 'bar',
  // Add the new settings for marker here
  marker: {
    color: '#86c7df'
  }
}];
_images/charts-light-blue.png

But wait, what if you want to make another chart? You’d have to copy and paste all that code over again.

Before we get to far, let’s abstract all of this into a function.

function createChart(x, y, element) {
    // The code that creates our chart will go here.
}

This is the start of a function that will take values for the x and y axes, and an HTML element, and create a chart with the data inside the element.

Now copy and paste the settings, layout and the call to Plotly.newPlot() into the createChart function. Change the variables years and countyHomicides to x and y.

Note also that we change 'county-homicides' to element in the call to Plotly.newPlot().

function createChart(x, y, element) {
    // The code that creates our chart will go here.
    var settings = [{
      x: x,
      y: y,
      type: 'bar',
      marker: {
        color: '#86c7df'
      }
    }];

    var layout = {
      xaxis: {
        title: 'Year',
        fixedrange: true
      },
      yaxis: {
        fixedrange: true
      }
    };

    // Create the chart
    Plotly.newPlot(element, settings, layout);
}

Now, if you reload the page, you won’t see your chart anymore! That’s because we’ve defined the function, but we haven’t called it.

To call the function, add this line to the end of your file.

// The rest of your code is up here
createChart(years, countyHomicides, 'county-homicides');

Now, we can make a second chart by using the Harvard Park data. Be sure to replace the ID of the element you’re building the chart in.

// The rest of your code is up here
createChart(years, harvardParkHomicides, 'harvard-park-homicides');
_images/two-charts.png

Not bad, right? By structuring our code this way, we’ll be able to make multiple charts without repeating our code (known as DRY).

Right now, our charts are stacked on top of each other, which isn’t a great layout. We can use HTML and CSS to lay out our charts side-by-side.

In index.nunjucks, add a div element with a class of charts-holder and clearfix that wraps your charts, and add a class of inline-chart to each of your charts.

Make sure you give the wrapping div a class of clearfix, which will make sure that the rest of the page displays below these items.

<div class="charts-holder clearfix">
    <div class="inline-chart" id="county-homicides"></div>
    <div class="inline-chart" id="harvard-park-homicides"></div>
</div>

This gives us a structure that we can style with CSS. In the _styles folder, create a file called _charts.scss. In that file, copy or write the following:

.inline-chart {
    width: 49%;
    float: left;
}

You won’t see anything yet, because we haven’t imported it into our main stylesheet. Use @import to bring your CSS file into main.css

// Normalize Styles
@import 'node_modules/normalize.css/normalize';

// Import Modules
@import '../_modules/link/link';
@import '_charts.scss';

Again, this is the same modular structure that allows us to organize our chart styles in a different place from our map styles, for example.

Reload the page to see your changes.

_images/inline-charts.png

The charts are laid out side-by-side like we want them, but there’s way too much space in between them. Luckily, we can adjust the margins in the chart layout. Back in _scripts/charts.js, the following settings should work.

l, r, t and b stand for left, right, top and bottom margins, respectively. Make sure you add a comma after the yaxis value!

var layout = {
    xaxis: {
        title: 'Year',
        fixedrange: true
    },
    yaxis: {
        fixedrange: true
    },
    // Add the margin here
    // Don't forget the comma above!
    margin: {
        l: 30,
        r: 15,
        t: 45,
        b: 30
    }
};

We can also add a parameter to reduce the height, they’re a bit tall.

var chartLayout = {
    xaxis: {
        title: 'Year',
        fixedrange: true
    },
    yaxis: {
        fixedrange: true
    },
    // Add the margin here
    margin: {
        l: 45,
        r: 15,
        t: 45,
        b: 30
    },
    // Add a height parameter to the bottom of your file
    height: 250
};

Another nice modification - we can make the annoying toolbar go away by adjusting our call to Plotly.newPlot()

Plotly.newPlot(element, settings, layout, {displayModeBar: false});
_images/two-charts-styled.png

Much better! There are a couple more customization options we can do with plotly. While it’s useful to get the homicide numbers on hover, we don’t really need those year label popups. We can turn those off by only displaying hovers for y-axis values.

function createChart(x, y, element) {
  var settings = [{
    x: x,
    y: y,
    type: 'bar',
    marker: {
      color: '#86c7df'
    },
    // Add this to your chart settings
    hoverinfo: 'y'
  }];

  // the rest of your code is down here
  ...
}

You can also slightly customize the label. For example, let’s change the background color.

function createChart(x, y, element) {
  var settings = [{
    x: x,
    y: y,
    type: 'bar',
    marker: {
      color: '#86c7df'
    },
    // Add this to your chart settings
    hoverinfo: 'y',
    hoverlabel: {
      bgcolor: '#777777'
    }
  }];

  // the rest of your code is down here
  ...
}
_images/two-charts-label.png

Last, our charts need titles! Since we want each chart to have a different title, we’ll need to update our function a bit.

We’re going to
  • add an argument to our createChart function for the title,
  • send that title to our chart options,
  • update our calls to provide that title
// Note the new 'title' argument
function createChart(x, y, element, title) {
    // More of the function is up here
    ...

    // Add a 'title' parameter to the layout properties
    var layout = {
      title: title,
      xaxis: {
        title: 'Year',
        fixedrange: true
      },
      yaxis: {
        fixedrange: true
      },
      // Add the margin here
      margin: {
        l: 30,
        r: 15,
        t: 45,
        b: 30
      },
      height: 250
    };

    // Create the chart
    Plotly.newPlot(element, settings, layout, {displayModeBar: false});
}

Then, add the title you want to your function call. We’ll assign them to variables first for cleanliness.

var countyChartTitle = "County Homicides, 2000-2017";
var hpChartTitle = "Harvard Park Homicides, 2000-2017";

createChart(years, countyHomicides, 'county-homicides', countyChartTitle);
createChart(years, harvardParkHomicides, 'harvard-park-homicides', hpChartTitle);

These titles are a little light and blend in to the rest of the text. Let’s make them bolder. The easiest way I’ve found to do this with Plotly is by wrapping them in bold tags.

var countyChartTitle = "<b>County Homicides, 2000-2017</b>";
var hpChartTitle = "<b>Harvard Park Homicides, 2000-2017</b>";

createChart(years, countyHomicides, 'county-homicides', countyChartTitle);
createChart(years, harvardParkHomicides, 'harvard-park-homicides', hpChartTitle);
_images/two-charts-title.png

Last, let’s add a headline to introduce our charts section.

<h3>A South L.A. neighborhood stands apart</h3>

<div class="charts-holder clearfix">
    <div class="inline-chart" id="county-homicides"></div>
    <div class="inline-chart" id="harvard-park-homicides"></div>
</div>
_images/two-charts-title.png

And an introductory paragraph to say a little bit about what we’re looking at.

<h3>A South L.A. neighborhood stands apart</h3>
<p>Harvard Park's 2016 homicide total was its highest in at least 15 years despite a downward trend in killings across L.A. County.</p>

<div class="charts-holder clearfix">
    <div class="inline-chart" id="county-homicides"></div>
    <div class="inline-chart" id="harvard-park-homicides"></div>
</div>
_images/chart-intro-graf.png

Congratulations, you’ve made your charts! Let’s commit our changes and move on to our next challenge.

$ git commit -m "Made my first charts."
$ git push origin master

Note

We used Plotly.js in this class, but there are many other JavaScript charting libraries, each one slightly different. If you want to explore this on your own, here are some other options that we considered using for this class

  • Vega-lite
  • Charts.js
  • C3.js Important to note that this does not seem to support the latest versions of D3.
  • D3.js The granddaddy of them all.

There are also tools that allow you to use a visual editor, creating charts and other visualizations that you can download and/or embed in your project.

  • Chartbuilder from Quartz, is very good for basic, fast charts with light customization.
  • DataWrapper allows a range of visualizations beyond basic charts, including scatter plots and maps.

Chapter 7: Hello map

Next we’ll move on to creating a map focused on West 62nd Street and Harvard Boulevard, an intersection in South Los Angeles where four men died in less than a year and a half.

To draw the map we will rely on Leaflet, a JavaScript library for creating interactive maps. We will install it just as before by using npm from our terminal.

$ npm install -s leaflet

After it’s been installed, we should import Leaflet into _scripts/main.js so that its tools are available on our site.

// Main javascript entry point
// Should handle bootstrapping/starting application

'use strict';

var $ = require('jquery');
var Link = require('../_modules/link/link');

$(function() {
  new Link(); // Activate Link modules logic
  console.log('Welcome to Yeogurt!');
});

var chart = require('./charts.js');
var L = require("leaflet");

We’ll also need to add a little hack to the file so that Leaflet’s images will load. Don’t ask. It’s a long story.

// Main javascript entry point
// Should handle bootstrapping/starting application

'use strict';

var $ = require('jquery');
var Link = require('../_modules/link/link');

$(function() {
  new Link(); // Activate Link modules logic
  console.log('Welcome to Yeogurt!');
});

var chart = require('./charts.js');
var L = require("leaflet");

L.Icon.Default.imagePath = 'https://unpkg.com/leaflet@1.3.1/dist/images/';

Next we import Leaflet’s stylesheets in _styles/main.scss so that they are also included on our site.

// Normalize Styles
@import 'node_modules/normalize.css/normalize';

// Import Modules
@import '../_modules/link/link';
@import '_charts.scss';
@import 'node_modules/leaflet/dist/leaflet';

Now, back in the index.nunjucks template, we should create a placeholder in the page template where the map will live.

<div id="map"></div>

To bring the map to life, add a new file named _map.js to the _scripts directory. Import it in main.js.

// Main javascript entry point
// Should handle bootstrapping/starting application

'use strict';

var $ = require('jquery');
var Link = require('../_modules/link/link');

$(function() {
  new Link(); // Activate Link modules logic
  console.log('Welcome to Yeogurt!');
});

var chart = require('./charts.js');
var L = require("leaflet");
var map = require("./_map.js");

L.Icon.Default.imagePath = 'https://unpkg.com/leaflet@1.3.1/dist/images/';

Now in _scripts/_map.js paste in the following Leaflet code to generate a simple map. It does three things: create a new map in the HTML element we made with “map” set as its ID; add a new map layer with roads, borders, water and other features from OpenStreetMap; finally, add the layer to the map.

var map = L.map('map');
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png');
osm.addTo(map);

After you save, the index page should reload with a blank map.

_images/blank-map.png

To zero in on the area we’re reporting on, we will need its longitude and latitude coordinates. Go to Google Maps and find 62nd Street and Harvard Boulevard in South LA. Hold down a click until it gives you the coordinates in a popup box. Paste those numbers into Leaflet’s setView method with a zoom level of 15 included.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png');
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 15);
_images/first-map.png

After you save the file, your map should have relocated. Let’s tighten up that zoom and save again.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png');
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 18);
_images/corner-map.png

Now let’s load some data on the map. We will return to the list of all homicides already stored in _data/harvard_park_homicides.json.

Open index.nunjucks and add a new variable to the scripts block where the homicides list is stored.

{% block scripts %}
<script>
var annualTotals = {% include '_data/annual_totals.json' %};
var homicides = {% include '_data/harvard_park_homicides.json' %};
</script>
{% endblock %}

Now return to _scripts/_map.js. At the bottom add some JavaScript code that steps through the homicide list and adds each one to the map as a circle, just like the real Homicide Report.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png');
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 18);

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map);
});

Save the file and you should now see all the homicides mapped on the page.

_images/hello-circles.png

Next, extend the code in _scripts/_map.js to add a tooltip label on each point.

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map)
      .bindTooltip(obj.first_name + " " + obj.last_name);
})

Here’s what you should see after you do that.

_images/hello-tooltips.gif

Next let’s sprinkle some CSS in our page to make the circles match the orange color of the dots found on The Homicide Report. As we did with the charts, go to the _styles folder and create a new file. We’ll call this one _map.scss. In that file, copy or write the following:

path {
    fill: #e64d1f;
    fill-opacity: 0.5;
    stroke-opacity: 0;
}

Just as before, that won’t change anything until you import our new file into the main stylesheet. Again, use @import to introduce your CSS file into main.css

// Normalize Styles
@import 'node_modules/normalize.css/normalize';

// Import Modules
@import '../_modules/link/link';
@import '_charts.scss';
@import 'node_modules/leaflet/dist/leaflet';
@import '_map.scss';

After you save, here’s what you’ll get.

_images/orange-circles.png

To make the tooltips visible all the time, edit the JavaScript in _scripts/_map.js to make the tooltips “permanent.”

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map)
      .bindTooltip(obj.first_name + " " + obj.last_name, {permanent: true});
});

Here they are.

_images/permanent-tooltips.png

Alright. We’ve got an okay map. But it’s zoomed in so close a reader might now know where it is. To combat this problem, graphic artists often inset a small map in the corner that shows the the area of focus from a greater distance.

Lucky for us, there’s already a Leaflet extension that provides this feature. It’s called MiniMap.

To put it to use, we’ll need to return to our friend npm.

$ npm install -s leaflet-minimap

Just as with other libraries, we need to import it into _scripts/main.js.

// Main javascript entry point
// Should handle bootstrapping/starting application

'use strict';

var $ = require('jquery');
var Link = require('../_modules/link/link');

$(function() {
  new Link(); // Activate Link modules logic
  console.log('Welcome to Yeogurt!');
});

var chart = require('./charts.js');
var L = require("leaflet");
var MiniMap = require('leaflet-minimap');
var map = require("./_map.js");

L.Icon.Default.imagePath = 'https://unpkg.com/leaflet@1.3.1/dist/images/';

Its stylesheets also need to be imported to _styles/main.scss.

// Normalize Styles
@import 'node_modules/normalize.css/normalize';

// Import Modules
@import '../_modules/link/link';
@import '_charts.scss';
@import 'node_modules/leaflet/dist/leaflet';
@import 'node_modules/leaflet-minimap/src/Control.MiniMap';
@import '_map.scss';

Now that everything is installed, return to scripts/_map.js and create an inset map with the library’s custom tools. We can set its view with the maxZoom option.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png');
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 18);

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map)
      .bindTooltip(obj.first_name + " " + obj.last_name, {permanent: true});
})

var osm2 = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
    maxZoom: 9
});
var mini = new L.Control.MiniMap(osm2, { toggleDisplay: true });
mini.addTo(map);

Save the file and the inset map should appear on your page.

_images/hello-minimap.png

Just for fun, let’s add a couple creature comforts to map. By default, the scroll wheel on your mouse will trigger zooms on the map. Some people (Armand!) have strong feelings about this. Let’s do them a favor and turn it off.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
    scrollWheelZoom: false
});
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 18);

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map)
      .bindTooltip(obj.first_name + " " + obj.last_name, {permanent: true});
})

var osm2 = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
    maxZoom: 9
});
var mini = new L.Control.MiniMap(osm2, { toggleDisplay: true });
mini.addTo(map);

While we’re at it, let’s also restrict the zoom level so it you can’t back too far away from LA.

var map = L.map('map')
var osm = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
    scrollWheelZoom: false,
    minZoom: 9
});
osm.addTo(map);
map.setView([33.983265, -118.306799], 18);

homicides.forEach(function (obj) {
    L.circleMarker([obj.latitude,  obj.longitude])
      .addTo(map)
      .bindTooltip(obj.first_name + " " + obj.last_name, {permanent: true});
})

var osm2 = L.tileLayer('http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
    maxZoom: 9
});
var mini = new L.Control.MiniMap(osm2, { toggleDisplay: true });
mini.addTo(map);

Finally, let’s preface the map with so a headline.

<h3>One corner. Four killings</h3>
<div id="map"></div>
_images/map-hed.png

Then an introductory paragraph.

<h3>One corner. Four killings</h3>
<p>The southwest corner of Harvard Park, at West 62nd Street and Harvard Boulevard, has been especially deadly. In the last year-and-a-half, four men have been killed there — while sitting in a car, trying to defuse an argument or walking home from the barber shop or the corner store.</p>
<div id="map"></div>
_images/map-deck.png

All wrapped up in a <section> tag.

<section>
    <h3>One corner. Four killings</h3>
    <p>The southwest corner of Harvard Park, at West 62nd Street and Harvard Boulevard, has been especially deadly. In the last year-and-a-half, four men have been killed there — while sitting in a car, trying to defuse an argument or walking home from the barber shop or the corner store.</p>
    <div id="map"></div>
</section>
_images/map-section.png

Congratulations. You’ve created a custom map. Before we get on to the business of sharing it with the world, we need a couple more pieces here.

Hey. How about a headline?

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}A South L.A. neighborhood grapples with a wave of violence{% endblock %}
{% block byline %}By me{% endblock %}
{% block pubdate %}
    <time datetime="2018-03-10" pubdate>Mar. 10, 2018</time>
{% endblock %}
_images/final-hed.png

And a real byline.

{% extends '_layouts/base.nunjucks' %}

{% block headline %}A South L.A. neighborhood grapples with a wave of violence{% endblock %}
{% block byline %}By <a href="http://www.firstgraphicsapp.org/">The First Graphics App Tutorial</a>{% endblock %}
{% block pubdate %}
    <time datetime="2018-03-10" pubdate>Mar. 10, 2018</time>
{% endblock %}
_images/final-byline.png

And let’s a write a lead.

{% block content %}
<section>
    <p>The area around Harvard Park was the deadliest place for African Americans in Los Angeles County last year, according to <a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/">The Times’ Homicide Report</a>. So far this year, six people have been killed. Most of the victims were black men.</p> </section>
<section>
<h3>One corner. Four killings</h3>
<p>The southwest corner of Harvard Park, at West 62nd Street and Harvard Boulevard, has been especially deadly. In the last year-and-a-half, four men have been killed there — while sitting in a car, trying to defuse an argument or walking home from the barber shop or the corner store.</p>
<div id="map"></div>
</section>
...
{% endblock %}
_images/final-lead.png

Commit our work.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Added map, headline and chatter"

Push it to GitHub.

$ git push origin master

Now we’re ready. Let’s do it live.

Chapter 8: Hello Internet

In in our last chapter, all the work we’ve done will finally be published online.

Our Yeoman framework, with its tools, structure and shortcuts, has served us well. It’s been a great place to experiment, organize and develop our work. But it’s useless to our readers.

The HTML, JavaScript and CSS files the framework generates are all they need. Without all the code running our terminal, those files aren’t be able to take advantage of Yeogurt, Gulp, BrowserSync and all our other tricks. But it won’t matter. We can upload the simple files our framework renders to the web and they’ll be enough for anyone who wants them.

That process — converting a dynamic, living website to simple files living on the filesystem — is a common strategy for publishing news sites. It goes by different names, like “flattening,” “freezing” or “baking.” Whatever you call it, it’s a solid path to cheap­, stable host­ing for simple sites. It is used across the industry for pub­lish­ing elec­tion res­ults, longform stories, spe­cial pro­jects and numerous other things.

Note

Examples of static news pages in the wild include:

Lucky for us, Yeogurt is pre-configured to flatten our dynamic site. And GitHub has a hosting service for publishing static pages. Here’s all it takes.

Next, open the package.json file at the root of the project. Scroll to the bottom. In the config section edit it to instruct Gulp to flatten files to the docs directory.

"config": {
  "//": "Entry files",
  "host": "127.0.0.1",
  "port": "3000",
  "baseUrl": "./",
  "directories": {
    "source": "src",
    "destination": "docs",
    "temporary": "tmp",
    "//": "Directories relative to `source` directory",
    "modules": "_modules",
    "layouts": "_layouts",
    "images": "_images",
    "styles": "_styles",
    "scripts": "_scripts",
    "data": "_data"
  }
}

Return to your terminal where the serve command is running. Hit CTRL-C or CTRL-Z to terminate its process.

Once you are back at the standard terminal, enter the following command to build a static version of your site. Rather than start up the local test server we’ve been using so far, it will instead save the site as flat files in docs.

$ gulp --production

That saves the entire file to the docs folder. We’re doing that because it’s the folder expected by GitHub’s free publishing system, called “Pages.”

Commit and push to GitHub.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Built site to docs folder"
$ git push origin master

To take advantage of it. Go to the repository on GitHub. Click on the “Settings” tab. Scroll down to the “GitHub Pages” section. Select “master branch /docs folder” as the source. Hit save.

This will result in any files pushed to the “docs” directory of your repository being published on the web. For free.

Wait a few moments and visit <your_username>.github.com/first-graphics-app/. You should see your app published live on the World Wide Web.

_images/preview.gif

Warning

If your page does not appear, make sure that you have verified your email address with GitHub. It is required before the site will allow publishing pages. And keep in mind there are many other options for publishing flat files, like Amazon’s S3 service.

Congratulations. You’ve finished this class.