How to Make a Timeline in Tableau

Tableau Timeline FeatureTimelines are not an out-of-the-box chart type in Tableau, but they can serve several practical purposes for your analyses and user experience. First, a timeline in Tableau can be used as a method for showing end users when notable events occurred in the business. For example, you can provide context by lining up a timeline of marketing promotions with a trend line to see when spikes align with your marketing efforts.

Second, a timeline can be used as a calendar showing upcoming dates of interest. In both use cases, you can use (1) a relative date filter in Tableau to dynamically display a subset of dates and (2) add dashboard actions to link to more information about notable events / dates on the timeline.

This tutorial shares how to make a timeline in Tableau and how to add an optional reference line to display the current day.

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Practical Tableau: 10 Data Visualization Tips I Learned from Google Analytics

10 Tableau Tips from Google Analytics 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.

Seven years ago, I was fortunate to be introduced to Tableau, a tool for data visualization that has led to personal opportunities and contributions to my clients’ businesses that I didn’t imagine would be possible in such a short amount of time.

Even before that though, I was introduced to Google Analytics.

It’s no surprise then that some of my inspiration for the design, usability, and analytics of my data visualizations have been drawn from Google Analytics over the years. Sure, the Audience Overview report features an overly large pie chart for New vs. Returning visitors – a measure that is largely useless in an age of multiple devices, cleared cookies, and anonymous users – but Google tends to get a lot of things right.

What follows is a list of 10 Tableau data visualization best practices I use that I either consciously or subconsciously picked up from Google Analytics. In no particular order…

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How to Add a Button to a Tableau Dashboard

How to Add a Button to a Tableau Dashboard FeatureI’ve shared before that the reason I hitched my wagon to Tableau is the software’s flexibility. There simply is no other data visualization tool on the market today that allows me to create practically any visual or user experience I can imagine. Tableau is so flexible, in fact, that you can create web pages – and arguably web sites – all within the authoring and dashboarding interfaces.

This post shares a simple way to improve your end user’s experience by adding a button to a Tableau dashboard. These buttons can be used for several practical purposes including, but not limited to, (1) calls to action for a mainstream audience (2) a way to alert internal audiences of insights and (3) a method for linking related dashboards together.

Any image object on a Tableau dashboard can be made a “button” by setting its URL, but the approach shared here provides the added benefits of (1) showing a call to action on hover and (2) allowing you to format the button from right within Tableau.

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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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