You made a viz! Congratulations, you are part of a small but growing group taking advantage of the power of visualization. However, going from good visualizations to great visualizations takes time, patience and attention to detail. Luckily, we have compiled a short but important list of techniques to get you started—happy vizzing!
Note: This document does not explain basic steps for building a viz, we assume you know how to do that. Rather this document explains tips for making your viz more effective.
Ask Your Viz A Question
What are you trying to say? The single most important thing you can do to make a great viz is to know what you’re trying to say. With the drag-and-drop flexibility of Tableau, anyone can get lost in a world of scatter plots and geocoding. It is vital that your visualization has a purpose. All of the maps, charts, and cross-tabs you create should work together to fulfill that purpose.
How do you know if your viz has a purpose? Well, ask it a question to find out. You don’t literally have to interrogate your screen, but click around and view it for a while. What answers do you find? What other questions does it inspire? What conversations will it start? The point is that your viewers should be taking something away from their time with your viz.
Perfecting The Big Picture
Whether or not your viz tells a story (though especially if
it doesn’t!), you should evaluate whether you’re using the best kind of visualizations for the analysis that you are doing. Furthermore, you’ll want to avoid bad views. Tableau provides a good set of defaults that will help you create good visualizations, but at the end of the day a human perspective is needed to polish a viz to perfection. Here are some things to keep in mind:
What’s the best view?
Although most data can be presented effectively in several different formats, there are some sets that you will want to visualize in a certain format most of the time:
- When you are showing a change over time, you should probably use a time series (a line chart with time on the columns shelf)
- When you are showing where something is, use a map. However, maps are often best used with another chart detailing what the map displays, like a bar chart sorted from greatest to least.
- When you are showing the highest or lowest value use a bar chart.
The power of the dashboard
A Tableau dashboard is a collection of several related visualizations shown on a single page, usually tied together through interactivity. (See Make it Interactive below.) Dashboards increase the analytical power of your viz by allowing multiple perspectives on your dataset in the same location. They can also be used to combine multiple types of data into a single location. When designing a dashboard it’s important to structure it properly to ensure it is accessible to your audience.