The first iteration of NVD3 dealt with complexity by copypasta code. This refactor aims to replace that copypasta with a sensible, object oriented design. Looking closely at the NVD3 codebase, there are some concepts that are easily abstractable. The first of these is the Layer – a thing to perform some DOM drawing on. The Layer manages the fundamental aspects of drawing a chart, especially the drawing lifecycle. On top of a Layer are the several visualization pieces, like Pie and Line, as well as the concept of a [Chart]. A chart is a composite object, managing the underlying visualization(s), the axes, the legend, and other common features.

Extension Mechanism

Because NVD3 targets modern web browsers, we use a variation of the Object.create pattern. An NVD3 constructor has a superclass, and a collection of private internal properties. This collection is stored in Layer.options, but allows getters and setters to be created automatically. Restricting external access to the options object allows significant flexibility in overriding specific chart functionalities.

To ease development, we’ve introduced an nv.utils.create(ctor, parent, privates) (code). This takes two constructor functions, links the prototype of the ctor to the parent, and creates a getter/setter method on the ctor prototype for each of the keys in privates. From this point, after instantiating the ctor class, all private internal data will be stored in its options key, while all access should come through the combined getter/setter methods. Client code can then override the default behavior by assigning a different function to ctor prorotype. Calling super methods should happen using Function.prototype.apply().

Because the nv model functions return a callable function, we have also introduced nv.utils.rebindp (code), which behaves similarly to d3.rebind, but calls functions on the source prototype, rather than the source itself.

Object Composition

Beyond extending and subclassing, Object Composition provides an excellent approach for achieving custom behaviors in similar charts. The Pie Chart labels have a labelLayout (code) property, which takes an object that knows the rules for laying out labels in a pie chart. Using Object Composition for specialized activities within the inheritance pattern will go a long ways towards creating extensible, maintainable, testable code.

Using these few primitives, we can build a very successful system. This new architecture should make NVD3 a solid library for charting requirements far into the future of front end development.