This chapter is excerpted from the Early Release version of 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.
Despite being one of the least effective means of communicating data, I often see Tableau pie charts in corporate dashboards and Tableau Public visualizations. New users likely see pie charts as an easy way to spruce up their dashboards, but they are doing themselves a disservice because pie charts increase time to insight and reduce accuracy of insights – the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with data visualization. I’ve talked before about the science behind why you shouldn’t use pie charts, so this chapter will be different.
When I share the shortcomings of pie charts, I am usually asked, “…but if I can’t use pie charts, then how do I show a parts of a whole relationship?” Despite the limitations of pie charts – especially the fact that we can process bars more efficiently than the areas of a pie – this is still one of the most common questions I receive during my Tableau trainings. This inspired me to document some better alternatives to using pie charts in Tableau.