Tablueprint 4: How to Make a Dual-Axis Waterfall Chart in Tableau

Tableau Waterfall Chart FeatureTablueprints is a series where I share how to make my Tableau data visualizations. If you would like updates on future posts, be sure to subscribe. I will only email when I have something new to share and I will not share your email with anyone.

In this tutorial, we will use my 2½ Minutes to Midnight visualization to create a waterfall chart in Tableau. A waterfall chart shows the progression toward a cumulative result by showing how positive or negative values contribute to the total. In my data visualization, the waterfall chart was an effective choice for showing how we’ve moved closer to and further from “midnight” on the Doomsday Clock since its inception in 1947. We eventually end up at, you guessed it, 2½ minutes to midnight. In a corporate environment, waterfall charts can be a great choice for showing how specific segments are contributing to your end goals and/or the makeup of the final result.

In addition to the foundational waterfall chart, I’ll show you how to leverage a dual-axis to add value to this type of data visualization. In my example, the dual-axis is used to display the absolute number of minutes to midnight after each change. In a corporate setting, the second axis can be used as a nice way to show absolute changes, percent changes, or some other metric of choice. I also like that the dual-axis creates a kind of teardrop effect that helps communicate the direction of the change.

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How to Add a ‘Filter in Use’ Alert to a Tableau Dashboard

Filter in Use Alert FeatureAs I am constantly touting the benefits of data visualization and Tableau, I regularly have conversations with the objective of helping analysts evolve their reporting from spreadsheets and Excel. It is not that I dislike Excel (though I can’t say the same about spreadsheets as “data visualizations”). I use Excel almost daily and it is an excellent software for preparing and storing data sources that require fewer than Excel’s ~1 million row limit.

Being such a pervasive tool and pioneer in office software, Excel is bound to have a few valuable features that haven’t yet made it into Tableau. Remember when the XFL had the skycam before the NFL made it cool? Orlando Rage – good times. Anyway, one of those features that I really like about Excel that is missing in Tableau is an alert that tells you when a filter is being applied to a dashboard. In fact, Excel tries to give you a heads up in several ways: (1) a filter icon on the column being filtered (2) a caption in the bottom left corner of the view and (3) highlighted row numbers.

In Tableau, unless a filter is being shown on a dashboard, it’s possible to have no indicators to an end user that the view is filtered. Even when a filter is being shown on a dashboard, the indication that it’s in use is very subtle (i.e. showing the filter selection). When you’re jumping around between descriptive and prescriptive views or if your end user is not experienced in Tableau, it can be easy to lose track of when a filter is being applied. This post shows you a simple four-step solution for adding a ‘filter in use’ alert to a Tableau dashboard.

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How to Add Custom Integrated Insights to a Tableau Dashboard

Custom Integrated Insights in Tableau FeatureWhen I discuss data visualization strategy, I often talk in terms of descriptive and prescriptive analytics. Descriptive views are the most common and can be thought of as high level overviews of what happened. Most weekly or monthly reports, particularly if they’re consumed as static documents, are descriptive dashboards. Descriptive dashboards certainly provide value and have a place, but they’re only a starting point for deeper analysis.

Prescriptive views go a step further than descriptive views and attempt to answer why something is happening. For example, a descriptive view might show that sales spiked 25% last month, and a prescriptive view would add value by showing it was the 15% off email campaign that caused the spike. Ideally, prescriptive views also ‘prescribe’ what should be done about the insight. For example, “we saw the email campaign worked; next we should test the discount amount to maximize our profit ratio.”

While descriptive insights can be easily ascertained by most audiences, prescriptive insights and recommendations are much harder to come by. I know some really smart people are working on ways to replace analysts with robots, but in the meantime, I found a simple way to allow you and your end users to add their own prescriptive insights to a Tableau dashboard.

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Practical Tableau: How to Create Icon-Based Navigation or Filters

Practical Tableau How to Make Icon Based Navigation or Filters FeatureThis chapter is excerpted from Practical Tableau: 100 Tips, Tutorials, and Strategies from a Tableau Zen Master published by O’Reilly Media Inc., 2016, ISBN: 978-1-4919-7724-8. Shop for Practical Tableau.

In the second of two chapters related to the Odds of Going Pro visualization, I will show you how to install custom shapes and use the images to filter and navigate dashboards in Tableau. See the first chapter about this visualization, how to make funnel charts in Tableau, for a detailed explanation on how to make the chart pictured in the visualization below.

Let’s again start by looking at the original Tableau Public workbook:

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How to Make Your New Favorite Tableau Date Comparison Filters

Tableau Date Comparison Filters FeatureDates can be tricky to work with in Tableau, particularly if you’re wanting to compare the performance of a metric during a selected date range to the performance of the same metric over a comparison date range (i.e. previous year). The reason this becomes challenging is that if you use an out-of-the-box Tableau date filter, selecting one date range will filter out the comparison date range.

An alternative approach would be to extend the selections in the date filter so that both the current date range in question and the comparison date range are represented, but then the marks wouldn’t be lined up on the same axis. This approach would make it challenging to do direct period over period analysis because the date equivalents would not be lined up for quick comparison.

This post uses the Super Sample Superstore dashboard to provide a step-by-step tutorial for creating my go-to approach to creating date comparison filters in Tableau. This tutorial will show you how to compare a selected date range to either the date range immediately preceding the selection or the same date range one year ago. The best part about this approach is that it normalizes the selected date range and the comparison date range so that they are on the same axis for easy analysis.

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