There are as many Tableau Best Practices as there are Tableau Developers. However, during those 5+ years that I’ve worked with Tableau, I can clearly see the ones that makes your life easier.
Work with others
It may sound as cliche but working with other Tableau Developers actively will boost your skills the most. Tackling corner cases and challenging ourselves brings most value. Also, it forces you to contantly learn and look for other solutions. Unfortunately, working with Tableau requires plenty of workarounds as users’ vision of dashboard is often not in line with developer’s. As much as working with Tableau professionals, it is important to cooperate with Front End Developers and Back End Developers. First will give you vizualization, color, styling and user experience tips, while second can help you with poor performance.
Love your containers
Containers are everyone’s favourite, especially when you start your journey with Tableau. There is a TON of great looking dashboards based on floating elements. In reality, floating containers are great for legends but actually nothing more.
Working with containers is always the hardest part as there is no guide explaining how it actually works. Stay tuned for ultimate Containers Guide coming up on my blog!
One most important Tableau Best Practice regarding containers – when you add new container, always place blank element inside first. Before you even add any of the sheets.
Having blank, allows user to add subsequent sheets with greater precision. Also, when adding sheets to existing container, always make sure to place it in the middle – between blank and existing sheet. It’s always easier to rearrange them later than finding ‘sweet spot’ to place sheet near edge of the container.
By having proper container structure, you can control how dashboards will be displayed when resolution changes. Sometimes you cannot really predict what will be the screen size of browser user will be using to look at your dashboard.
Usually, display flexibility is achieved by combining horizontal and vertical containers toghether with some being fixed width and some distributed evenly.
It’s important to note, that distribute evenly option works best for elements of similar kind. For example line graphs showing different measures displayed next to each other.
Rememeber that you can fix width and height values only to certain type of container. Height only for horizontal container and width for vertical.
If the dashboard structure is already pretty complex and you would like to know where specific element is, Tableau Best Practice is to start drilling down the tree in the layout pane on the left and then click desired element. You can go through the dashboard tree and just remove the blanks from there.
Using Best Graph for the Message
Remember to keep and eye on the proper graph type for the story you are telling. Sometimes simple change as adding details to the graph or shaking points a bit can bring additional insights to simple vizualization request.
Displaying data as simple bar chart might be enough to fulfill requirements but adding each datapoint to the graph can bring more insights. Such as distribution information.
Challenging original design is considered not only Tableau Best Practice but as general approach as well. Initial bar chart analysis bloomed after switch to line and area chart. Those changes, together with highlight action, allowed user to evaluate results of each country in longer time perspective, compare each of them and still be able to see the total picture.
#marks vs Dashboard Performance
When developing a dashboard having performance in the back of the head is definietely Tableau Best Practice. Despite Tableau claiming to be blazingly fast, Tableau performance is usually only ‘acceptable’ at best.
From the very general point of view, dashboard performance is affected by 2 main factors:
- database / query performance
- render time.
Usually, database issues are solved quickly by Backend Developers.
However, keeping eye at 1 key metric, which is marks number, can prove useful when working with render time. Having deagragated data severely impacted number of points to render on the graph.
Looking at the performance recording data, it’s clear that it take a lot of time to display that view. I surely say that running a performance recording after completing the dashboard is Tableau Best Practice. This feature is available for Tableau Desktop and Server (not yet Online) so it’s sometimes easier to spot some blocked ports (especially for mapping) or hung queries.
Layout Clarity – printing
Despite being in digital age, significant chunk of big companies C-level executives, still want to have dashboard printed for the board meeting.
This means that taking a quick look how dashboards will be printed is considered Tableau Best Practice. That’s why it is imporant to have proper header, footer, company logo and clear filter section.
Even if dashboard is set to “Automatic” sizing and despite it stretches and looks good in browser, pdf export with Automatic settings does leave a lot of blank space at the bottom. Clearly browser visuals can easily depart from printed version.
Actions Clarity and Intuitiveness of Transitions
It’s always a Tableau Best Practice to take step back after completing design and ask yourself a question – will user, upon entering the dashboard for the first time, be overwhelmed by options, colors and actions? Will it be clear how to navigate and explore all this content prepared for him?
It’s considered to be Tableau Best Practice to provide visual hint to guide user, especially on compact dashboards, that clicking on certain areas might uncover additional analysis options. This can done for example by hover icon in the header.