Create a data visualisation in 5 minutes with Tableau

by Guest Author on September 8, 2020

in Guest Posts

There are several great data visualisation tools available, but none are as fast to start as Tableau.

Where Tableau beats the competition is 2-fold:

  1. If you’re able to use an Excel Pivot Table you’re able to build simple visualisations in Tableau – no technical ability is required
  2. Connecting data to Tableau can be as simple as copy and paste; Ctrl-c and Ctrl-v – no coding required

Getting started with Tableau

Many other visualisation software require technical knowledge to load and structure data. This technical knowledge is not required for those first starting with Tableau.

Copy and Paste directly into Tableau

To begin creating dashboards with Tableau is very simple.

If there’s some data you want to visualise then copy it. Open a Tableau workbook then paste (ctrl-v).

Give Tableau a few seconds and it’ll open a worksheet containing the pasted data.

You will see the data source in the top left of your Tableau worksheet. It will have the name “Clipboard_YYYYMMDDTHHmmss”.

Connecting to Data

It’s not always possible to copy data to the clipboard. Perhaps there’s too much data or it’s in a data structure not easy to copy.

In which case just Connect to Data (ctrl-d).

Tableau Public allows the following data connections

Tableau has native connectors to hundreds of different data sources. The image above shows the options with Tableau Public. But Tableau Desktop has significantly more options. Common connections include SQL Server, Excel, Oracle, csv, etc.

But there are also native connectors for less common data sources such as Amazon Redshift, Snowflake, Splunk, etc.

A small disclaimer – as you advance in Tableau the technical complexity does increase somewhat. However, there is no need to code, formulas, similar to those used in Excel, always suffice. In fact, even if you want to code, you can’t. Tableau doesn’t have a programming interface, the interface in Tableau Desktop is what you get.

Building your first Tableau chart

Now you have connected to data, you can build your first chart.

A single chart is built on a Worksheet. Multiple worksheets (charts) can combine on a Dashboard, creating a visualisation.

After connecting to data open a new worksheet to build your first chart.

Different chart types

Almost all standard chart types also come “out of the box”. Bar Charts, Line Charts, Pie Charts, Heatmaps, Tables, Maps, Scatter Plots, etc, are all pre-defined.

This is where Tableau stands out. Usually, the user should choose the chart type and then add the components.

Tableau differs. Add the fields to the worksheet and Tableau will start to build the visualisation as it thinks best suits the data.

It is as simple as double-clicking a field name. Double click the field name and Tableau will automatically add it, sometimes changing the chart type to better display the fields.

Show Me in Tableau

There’s no need to put any fields to a worksheet. If you know you want to show Sales over time, for example, hold down ctrl and click the different fields you want in the visualisation.

Once selected look in the top right of the screen. You’ll notice an icon and the words “Show Me”.

Chart Types in Show Me

Click Show Me and it will display a list of all chart types that Tableau suggests based on the data types selected.

For example, selecting Order Date and Sales, Show Me will present a Line Chart as the preferred option.

But it also contains other options that will also work, such as a table, heat map, bar chart, etc.

Chart types not suited to your data are not possible to select. These are lighter in colour, and Tableau informs you why. For example, with the choice of 1 dimension (Order Date) and 1 measure (Sales), it won’t allow a Scatter Plot. Tableau informs you that 2 measures are needed for a Scatter Plot.

Show Me works at any time. Even if you have manually built a chart, click Show Me and Tableau will give you the options that work using the data types in the visualisation.

Click any of the suggestions and Tableau will build it.

Tableau isn’t always right with the suggestions, some things don’t work very well. But no problem, just click the Back button and it returns to how it was. Simple!

Build a Tableau dashboard in minutes

Building dashboards is also simple. Click the new dashboard symbol alongside the worksheet name and Tableau creates a new blank dashboard. Drag as many of the sheets you want to the dashboard; they’ll click into place, and they’re simple to rearrange by dragging and dropping.

Blank Tableau Dashboard

Drag and drop the worksheets into the dashboard. Add other objects, such as text, images and web pages by drag and drop.

Set the dashboard size here. Either Fix the size, give it a Range for resizing based on screen size, or set to Automatic and it will automatically resize to any screen size. Note Automatic can give some strange results so I don’t recommend it.

The top option in the dashboard screen, where it says Default and Phone, is where the Tableau dashboard can be set fully responsive. Different layouts of the same dashboard are possible for desktop, phone and tablets!

Using Tableau with minimal technical ability a user is able to build compelling dashboards literally in minutes!


Guest article written by: Written by Andrew Watson, founder of TAR Solutions, a leading London based Tableau and Alteryx consultancy

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

wedsite development September 9, 2020 at 14:36

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