Yikes – I’m getting old in Tableau years. This week I clicked on a Tableau Public post I thought sounded interesting: 3 Tips to Overcoming the Excel Barrier to Tableau Adoption. Wow, I thought, the Tableau Public team is so in tune, and that sounds just like something I would say. Interested to hear their take, I clicked on the article to discover I had wrote it in May of 2016! Ah, May 2016. A time before I started Playfair Data, my Twitter handle was @OSMGuy, and the Kansas City Royals were defending World Series Champions.
I also had an epiphany. I thought back to all the posts I’ve shared and presentations I’ve delivered in hopes of evangelizing moving business users from a spreadsheet mentality to data visualization. What I realized is: this is just as relevant as ever. Now ten years into my career, my primary challenge remains convincing my stakeholders to leave the comfort of Excel behind for the value of self-service analytics and data visualization that Tableau thrives at. Something so seemingly obvious that has technically been available since William Playfair conjured up the bar chart and line graph in 1786, but which so few companies are doing well.
This post shares three more specific tactics for smoothing the transition from text tables to data visualization. We’ll start with the ‘gateway’ chart, the highlight table, learn how to leverage Viz in Tooltip to display trends or comparisons within crosstab cells, and I’ll share a hack for allowing your users to toggle between a text table and a data visualization. We’ve led the horse to water; now we’re going to give them a loving nudge in.
This post shows you how to automatically isolate the last two partial date ranges so you can compare an equal number of days period over period. Last week I showed you how to compare the last two complete date periods in Tableau, but sometimes you want the comparison to be even more current. For example, you may want to compare this week to last week even if the week is not yet complete instead of comparing the last full week to the full week from two weeks ago.
The benefit to this is timelier analysis, but you can often end up with an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. For example, if it’s Wednesday this week and you try to create a week over week analysis, you can end up comparing the 3 days from this week to all 7 days from last week. The tricky part to creating a true partial period over period analysis is you need to calculate the number of days in the current range and then cap the last full date range at that same number.
This post shares the formulas needed to automatically create a partial period over period analysis so that both periods – whether you’re using weeks, months, quarters, or years – contain an equal number of days.
This post aims to help you harness dates in Tableau to create powerful comparisons in your dashboards. You will learn how to isolate the last two full reporting periods – whether they be days, weeks, months, quarters, or years – so can compare the last complete date part to the date part preceding it (i.e. last week compared to the week before). The calculations shared in this post can be used as a foundation to: (1) create period over period percent or index changes, (2) filter your dashboards to only the most recent dates, and (3) normalize the dates so they overlap on the same axis.
While there is almost always more than one way to do the same thing in Tableau, I’ve attempted to provide an easy-to-execute solution that also processes efficiently. As such, this approach allows you to compare the last two complete date parts without the use of level of detail calculations or table calculations. I owe a big thank you to Playfair Data partner consultant, Rody Zakovich, as he collaborated with me on this post to make the calculations even more elegant than my original idea.
This is the fifth and final post in a series on dashboard gauges in Tableau. To this point, we’ve covered bullet graphs, rounded gauges, custom background images, and ‘stock ticker’ gauges. For this final installment, we’ll have some fun and use custom shapes that dynamically change based on performance.
Like the stock ticker gauge, most shapes are not the best choice for visualizing magnitude, but just like sometimes when you need something other than a bar chart, sometimes you need a gauge other than a bullet graph. I like the custom shape indicators I’m sharing because they: (1) immediately and intuitively convey performance, (2) have a minimalist design, and (3) provide a starting point that can be linked to deeper analysis.
This post will show you how to: (1) find and format custom shapes for your dashboard, (2) install those shapes in your Tableau Repository so you can map them to your data, (3) write a calculation to dynamically change the shape being displayed based on performance, and (4) use dashboard actions and/or the viz in tooltip feature to link to deeper analysis.
This is the fourth in a five-part series on dashboard gauges in Tableau. For future updates, subscribe to my mailing list.
The next gauge I will show you how to build in Tableau was inspired by the stock tickers seen on major news networks and stock portfolio apps. The visualization typically features the positive or negative change of a stock or index, preceded by an up or down colored triangle, and are occasionally enclosed by a colored rectangle to reinforce the change. You may not initially think of this as a gauge, but in this series, gauges are defined as chart types that show progress to a goal or comparison point.
While stock tickers aren’t the best choice for visualizing the magnitude of a change, I like them because they: (1) clearly indicate a positive or negative performance (2) have a minimalist design (3) are encoded by both color and shape; an approach to double-encoding that is colorblind friendly. If you’re looking to try a slightly different approach, the stock ticker gauge is a good alternative to callout numbers across the top of your dashboards. This post will show you how to use Gantt charts in a unique way and the up (▲) and down (▼) alt code characters to create a ‘stock ticker’ in Tableau.
Thank you for your support in 2018. This time of year is always a time of reflection for me, and one consistent theme I’m grateful for - and which I’ve come to realize is the single biggest-driving force behind my career - is you: the community. Your support has not only inspired me, it has made it possible for me to grow personally. You have forced me to sharpen my skills by teaching and challenged me to provide better solutions. So Thank You.
Each year, I ask how could the next possibly be better, but 2018 included more huge updates: (1) I rebranded my analytics consulting agency, Ryan Sleeper LLC, to Playfair Data, (2) we launched Playfair Data TV, a premium online Tableau video training resource, (3) my book Practical Tableau was published, and (4) I had the opportunity to speak at 8 Tableau user groups across the US, Canada, and England. And, of course, I released more content! 41 blog posts and 50 videos to be exact.
As a small token of my appreciation, I’m sharing my top ten posts and some statistics from my blog. My hope is that this content helps you in your Tableau journey, and that my observations provide some insight into the current state of the Tableau / analytics community. I’ll close the post by previewing even more announcements coming in 2019.
This is the third in a five-part series on dashboard gauges in Tableau. For future updates, subscribe to my mailing list.
To this point in the series, I’ve shown you my favorite type of gauge with bullet graphs and a way to round gauges when your primary objective is to track progress to 100%. In the next example, I will show you how to make a gauge with any image. I learned this trick from Lindsey Poulter in her visualization, Best States to Raise Children. Downloading Tableau Public visualizations and reverse engineering them is one of the best ways to pick up new techniques.
In the visualization, Lindsey draws an arrow over a custom sequential color palette to communicate performance across five different categories. In this post, I’ll show you how to make a gauge out of a custom background image for a company that is interested in viewing individual responses to a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. The following approach is useful any time you want to customize how a gauge looks with the image of your choosing.
This is the second in a five-part series on dashboard gauges in Tableau. For future updates, subscribe to our mailing list.
While bullet graphs are the optimal type of ‘gauge’ in Tableau because of their efficient use of space and their ability to show values past 100%, there are other engaging ways to display the progress toward a goal or prior period. If your primary objective is to communicate how much progress you’ve made toward hitting the 100% mark, and you don’t mind not seeing performance past the goal, you can stop the scale at 100%. This lends itself to some interesting design possibilities including the oft-maligned, donut chart.
Donut charts are criticized for inefficiently using dashboard real estate, stopping at 100%, and making it difficult for users to accurately assess progress to goal. This post will show you how to essentially flatten out a donut chart, which will solve two of these three deficiencies. Plus, I will show you a hack that allows you to round bars and the background scales. This is not an out-the-box design in Tableau, but I think it adds a touch of engagement to gauges.
This is the first in a five-part series on dashboard gauges in Tableau. For future updates, subscribe to my mailing list.
Speedometer-like dashboard gauges that show an arrow moving across a semi-circle consume an unnecessarily large amount of valuable real estate and are not ideal for communicating or interpreting magnitude. This series aims to provide five alternative dashboard gauges to help illustrate comparisons to prior periods or goals. I feel legally obligated to start the series off with Stephen Few’s, bullet graphs, as he really helped pioneer the idea of making gauges more streamlined and effective.
Bullet graphs build onto bar charts and provide context in the form of lines and shading that represent a comparison point. They work well because they make an efficient use of space, leverage the preattentive attribute of length, and can illustrate comparisons beyond 100% (i.e. 20% above goal). This post and video will show you two different ways to make bullet graphs in Tableau.
Tableau set actions are a new (as of version 2018.3) type of dashboard action that will unlock new user experiences by allowing you to dynamically control which dimension members are included in a set. Some of my favorites that have already been figured out include How to Highlight with Color by Matt Chambers, How to Change Dimensions by Lindsey Poulter, How to Make a Cross-Highlight by Rody Zakovich, and How to Drilldown in a Single Sheet by Ann Jackson, just to name a few.
A general thread that I’ve noticed between the innovative applications of set actions is they’re often used to make existing dashboards and tutorials better, and I am no exception. I’ve shown you before how to dynamically group the top N vs everything else using a parameter. This is a user experience I like because it reduces the cognitive load on my end user, making it easier for them to consume the view. In this post, I will make this experience even better by using set actions to allow my end user to choose the top N by simply clicking on the dimension members on a chart.