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Greg Jopa

Render SVG Charts Server-side with D3.js

JavaScript, Node.js

Update: This blog post is really old. Here's a more recent post about this topic:

Render D3.js charts server-side with Node version 12+

D3 Bar Chart

It's common to use d3.js to render svg charts on the client-side. With the d3 node module you can render svg charts on the server-side as well. The d3 node module uses jsdom to simulate the browser's Document Object Model (DOM) which allows for d3 selectors to work on the server-side.

Running D3 on the server with Node.js is pretty easy. You can reuse most of your client-side d3 code on the server. The only tricky part is integrating d3 widgets into your server-side views.


Getting started with running D3 on Node.js

Install the d3 node module using npm: npm install d3. The d3 node module uses jsdom which requires a C++ compiler. Read more about this dependency here:

After you get d3 installed you can require it like any other node module:

var d3 = require("d3");

Reusable Chart Pattern

I recommend using the reusable chart design pattern for your charts: This modular pattern works great on the client and on the server. Since the reusable chart pattern is just a function you can assign it directly to module.exports:

var barChart = module.exports = function() { ...

D3 View Helper

My demo app uses the express.js web framework with the ejs templating engine. I want to be able to integrate my D3 chart widgets into my view templates. I accomplished this by appending my chart widget to the jsdom and then getting it's outerHTML value and rendering it in my ejs template:


var getBarChart = function (params) {
var chart = barChart()
// append to jsdom"body").append("div").attr("id", params.containerId).call(chart);
var selector = "#" + params.containerId;
// get html string "<div id="bar-chart-small"><svg class="svg-chart"> ..."
var svg =;
// remove from jsdom;
return svg;


<!-- ejs template -->
<h1>D3 Server-side Demo</h1>
<%- barChartHelper.getBarChart({ data: fixtureData, width: 400, height: 300,
xAxisLabel: '2012', yAxisLabel: 'Views', containerId: 'bar-chart-small' }) %>

To see this code in action download my d3-server-side-demo express.js app here: