How to

How to create your first data visualization dashboard in Tableau

How to create your first data visualization dashboard in Tableau

Setting up a simple data visualization dashboard in the Tableau Software requires data science applications and display and presentation arts.


Image: lucadp, Getty Images / iStockPhoto

In a modern business environment, data is constantly changing and updated. And while data visualization techniques can be used to transform raw data into useful and actionable information, the transformation often has to be as dynamic as the raw data that feeds it. To accommodate and track changes over time, decision makers often rely on a data visualization dashboard.

Creating a dashboard in a data visualization application such as Tableau Software can be as easy as clicking the “dashboard” button, but only if you have actually made data visualization in the first place. This how-to tutorial shows you how to set up a simple data visualization dashboard in the Tableau Software and explore some of the key elements involved in the process.

Create a dashboard in Tableau

For this example, we will use free sample data provided by the Tableau Public website resource page. Specifically, Cat vs. Popularity Dogs in the US dataset. You can download the dataset, in the form of an Excel worksheet, to any folder on your computer.
Open Tableau and connect it to your dataset. You will see something like

Figure A.


Before you start creating worksheets and dashboards, look at your data structure. Record columns and rows – consider what data they contain. The data structure will inform many of the decisions you will make going forward.

In our example, country names are variables that break down our data in cats and dogs. It seems natural that our dashboard users might want to compare cat and dog data from one state to another, so that’s what we will make.

Click or tap the Sheet 1 tab to move to our first worksheet. As you can see in Figure B, there are several data points to consider in our dataset. For our dashboard, we will concentrate on household data. CTRL-click on Location, Households That Have Cats, and Households That Have Dogs. That will highlight our data points, and Tableau will suggest the possibility of data visualization in the Show Me section on the right side of the screen.

Figure B


We chose bar graphs so we could make direct comparisons between cats and dogs for each state. The Tableau application automatically handles many of the settings needed to manage our charts. If your first choice does not convey what you want to convey, you should try other graphic suggestions.

From the menu bar, find Dashboard and select a new dashboard. Click and drag Sheet 1 to display the area to create a scratch, rough draft, dashboard, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C


Users of our dashboard are not likely to want to see data from every state. It is more likely that they will want to view a single state or compare states. To fine tune the dashboard presentation, we will need to apply a filter.

Click the caret on the side of our chart on the dashboard to reveal options. Select Filters | Location, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D


That will add a simple checkbox list of all states, with all the checkboxes filled out, like Figure E. But we can fix it even more.

Figure E


Right-click the filter that we just entered and choose a different filter style from the context menu shown in Figure F. There are several choices, and which one you choose will depend on the nature of your data and the visualization of the data you are trying to convey. For our purposes, let’s choose the Multiple Value (dropdown).

Image F


Now, users who view a dashboard can choose one or more countries, making presentations much more palatable. Note that as you scroll through each bar on the dashboard (Figure G), details about what data the bar represents will be displayed.

G. Pictures


Of course, there is much more that can be done to make the dashboard so we look smoother and more professional. Further details, better formatting, and deliberate ceiling color choices will help convey related information to users. In many cases, data visualization specialists must apply rigorous knowledge in data processing and display and presentation arts.

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