Responsive, Real-Time Graphs in WordPress: Dealing with Data

Justyn Hornor

This is a special post that I made just to help out those who are struggling to get your graphs working properly.

I start off with a discussion of PHP and MySQL. If you really struggled through those parts of this series, take some time to review this section. Some of it’s repeating older sections, but now that you’ve actually done this, you will likely have some epiphanies about how and why this process works.

Next, I cover some basic troubleshooting. Many of you will find yourself staring at a blank screen. This is usually due to one of several very specific issues that we can work through.

In the final part of this series, you can really drill into how to style the graphs with our own brand colors, shadows, and other tweaks.

PHP/MySQL Tips for Beginners:

If you’re new to PHP and MySQL, you may wonder what those words with a dollar sign mean. If you paste this code into an editor that supports code checking, you’ll see that it changes those words to a different color.

Those are variables and a critical piece of the PHP/MySQL puzzle. Let’s look at the $wpuser variable. At the top of the file, we go through a little song and dance to find who is the currently logged in user. In short, the variable on the left of the equals sign “gets” whatever is on the right side of the equal sign.

So the $current_user variable “gets” whatever the current user logged in using some code that’s built into WordPress – wp_get_current_user();. This code returns lots of information in an array, which would look like a table of information. One of the rows in this array is the user’s login ID.

So, we are able to assign $wpuser the login ID using the code $current_user->user_login. You can assign it several other things, but we just want the user_login for now.

Variables are the safest way to pass information within PHP around. You can pass variables outside of a function so that other code can use it – even JavaScript!

Adding the Function to the Plugin File

If you were following along in the previous parts of this series, you may already have done this part. In WordPress, go over to your “Plugins” > “Editor,” and select Flot for WordPress as the plugin you want to edit.

Also in previous posts, we created a simple form for adding content to a custom table using phpMyAdmin. I including that PHP file in this. Add the include call at the bottom of the file:

[sourcecode language=”php”]

Here’s where you add your custom files for pulling and adding data
Remember that you can NOT use a URL to point to any files you want to
include. You have to use a PATH. So you can stick these files anywhere
you want in your WP install, just use a PATH to point to them.
The plugin_dir_path call will use a PATH from the WP wp-content/plugins
include ( plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . ‘flot/custom_workout.php’);
include ( plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . ‘flot/pushups_results.php’);


We already had the custom_workout.php file in there, so just add the include for the pushups_results.php file. Now, all you have to do is drop the shortcode [pushups_results_sc] anywhere you want it, and you’re done!


The first thing you’re all going to run into is a big, blank screen. The first thing to check is that your placeholder div is wrapped in a div with both height and width defined. Customize this to fit your WordPress post width. But, if you see a blank screen, this is usually the culprit.

I didn’t take a lot of time here to discuss the details of the pushups_results.php file — the code used to display graph results. I’m expecting you to go through the comments. Even for novice developers, you should be able to have enough information that you can Google answers beyond what I’ve included here and in the comments of the code.

To start graphing data from a different data set isn’t too tough:

  1. Plug in your own database connection info
  2. Change the queries to match your database
  3. Change the variables in the JavaScript to match your database calls

That’s it! Rinse and repeat for all the graphs you can imagine.

Rounding Out the Functionality

I went ahead and made a tool for users to be able to delete records and I wanted to combine the “Add Pushups” functionality with the graph. So do the following to quickly add a complete pushup tracker tool:

  1. Create a new post and call it Pushups Tracker
  2. Add the following shortcodes to the post:
    1. [pushups_sc]
    2. [pushups_results_sc]
    3. [pushups_records_sc]
    4. Publish it
  • From the resources files I provided, upload the pushups_records.php and delete_pushups.php to wp-content/plugins/flot-for-wp/flot folder
  • Go to “Plugins” > “Editor” within WordPress and add the following include statement at the bottom with the other two already there:
    • include ( plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . ‘flot/pushups_records.php’);
  • Navigate to the Pushups Tracker post and behold the goodness!
  • I’m really thrilled to see what you all are going to come up with! Don’t forget that you can call data from anywhere to make your graphs work. It’s really just limited by your imagination. Check out the pushups_results.php file for one way to get data into your page and to call the Flot graphs.

    Now go forth and make data interesting. You have the power!

    In the final section of this series, I’ll go into the details of how to customize the graphs so you can match colors and other design elements to your brand. Flot has a load of features for customizing charts and graphs, but they’re not very intuitive. That’s where I come in to help!