Building your First Advanced Dashboard
Creating dashboards with tableau is an interactive process, there isn’t a “one best method”. Starting with a basic concept, discoveries made along the way lead to design refinements. Feedback from your target audience provides the foundation for additional enhancements. With traditional BI tools, this is a time-consuming process. Tableau’s drop and drag ease of using facilities resulted in the rapid evolution of designs and also started encouraging discovery.
Introducing the dashboard worksheet
After creating multiple, complementary worksheets, you can combine them into an integrated view if the data is using the dashboard worksheet. Figure 8.8 shows an empty dashboard workspace.
The top-left half of the dashboard shelf displays all of the worksheets contained in the workbook. The bottom half of the same space provides access to another object controls for adding text, images, blank space, or live web pages in the dashboard workspace. The worksheets and other design objects are placed into the “drop sheets here” area. The bottom left dashboard area contains controls for specifying the size of the dashboard and a check box for adding a dashboard title.
You are going to step through the creation of a dashboard using the access database file that ships with tableau called coffee chain. You will create the dashboard by employing the best practices, recommended earlier in the post.
The example dashboard is suitable for a weekly or monthly recurring reports. The specifications have been defined and are demanding. The example utilizes a variety of visualizations, dashboard objects and actions. It will include a main dashboard and a secondary dashboard that will be linked together via filter actions.
Figure 8.8: Tableau’s dashboard worksheet
Read through the rest of the post first to get an overview of the process. Then, step through each section and build the dashboard by yourself. When completed, your dashboard should look like figure 8.9
Figure 8.9: Completed coffee chain dashboard example
The dashboard follows the 4-pane layout recommended earlier in the best practices section of this post, but it is actually a 5-panel design with the small select year cross-tab acting as a filter via a filter action. The main dashboard in figure 8.9 includes a variety of worksheet panes, an image object with a logo, text objects, dynamic title elements, and a text object containing an active web link. The example, employs a cascading design that links the main dashboard to a secondary dashboard via a filter action. The secondary dashboard contains more granular data in a crosstab and an embedded webpage that is filtered by hovering your mouse over the crosstab. This example is designed to use many of tableau’s advanced dashboard features included in tableau desktop version 8. The major steps required to complete this example are:
- Download the post “bringing it all together with dashboards” dashboard exercise workbook from the book’s companion website. Refer to Appendix C: “inter works book website” for additional details.
- Define the dashboard size and position the dashboard objects in the dashboard workspace.
- Enhance title elements, refine axis headers, and place image and text objects into the primary dashboard.
- Create a secondary dashboard with a detailed crosstab, webpage object and navigation pane.
- Add filter, highlight and URL actions to the dashboards.
- Finish the dashboard by enhancing the tooltips and testing all filtering and navigation. Add a read me dashboard to explain how the dashboard is intended to be used to data sources and for any calculations created that may not be obvious to the audience.
Defining the dashboard size
One of the first things you should consider when assembling worksheets in a dashboard is the available space that your audience has to view the dashboard. Will it be viewed on an old overhead projector with limited resolution and brightness? Or, will the audience consumes the dashboard on a personal computer or a tablet computer? For this exercise, assume that the majority of people will be viewing the dashboard on laptop computers. A small number of people will view it on desktop computers.
The easiest way to start a dashboard is to click the new dashboard tab. Figure 8.8 shown earlier in the post highlights the new dashboard tab at the bottom of the workspace.
Figure 8.10: Dashboard design shelves
Position the worksheet objects in the dashboard workspace
Placing worksheets into the dashboard workspace can be done by double-clicking on the worksheet objects at the top of the dashboard shelf. Tableau will automatically place them into the view. Alternatively, drag the worksheet object into the view and place it in the exact position you desire. Tableau provides a light gray shading as you drag objects into the workspace indicating the space, that it will occupy when you release your mouse button.
Unless custom titles were added in the worksheets, the titles that are displayed in the dashboard for each worksheet reflect the worksheet tab names. A variety of dashboards objects can be accessed and placed into the dashboard workspace using the dashboard and layout objects displayed in figure 8.10
Dashboard area 1 includes worksheet objects, objects for controlling the orientation of the group of objects horizontally and vertically, objects for adding text, images, live web pages, or blank space. By default, tableau uses tile to place objects in their own panes. Selecting the floating option makes objects float over other objects which are already in the workspace. As you add worksheet objects to the dashboard, a small blue circle with a check mark will appear next to its icon.
Layout area 2 includes objects that have been added to the dashboard as well as layout options. Dashboard area3 at the bottom allows you to define the sizing of the entire dashboard and the individual objects included in the workspace. Before any worksheets are added into the workspace, define the dashboard size to accommodate the worst-case scenario in which the dashboard will be viewed-(800×600) pixels. The option laptop in the menu provides this exact size.
To view more options, click on the size shelf as shown in figure 8.11 so that additional ways size can be controlled.
- Automatic – expands the dashboard to fill the available screen space
- Exactly – allows you to lock the dashboard’s width and height
- Range – enables the designer to define minimum and maximum limits.
Figure 8.11:Dashboard layout, size definition
The exact mode allows you to set the worst-case parameters for space. After completing your design, you may want to change the size mode to the range and define specific limits so that the dashboard can expand to fill.
Automatic mode expands or contracts the dashboard to fill the available screen resolution of each computer viewing the dashboard. If any of your audience has a high resolution graphics card, the dashboard might look out of place. The range option allows you to define specific maximum limits so that dashboards designed for compact spaces don’t look too sparse on large monitors. If someone is using a very low resolution monitor to view the dashboard, minimum limits can be set for the dashboard pixel height and width. Once the dashboard size has been defined you are now ready to add individual worksheet objects to the dashboard. Figure 8.10 displayed earlier shows six different worksheet objects that are available to add to the dashboard. There are two ways to add objects into the dashboard. Double-clicking on a worksheet object causes tableau to place that object into the workspace automatically. To control the placement of an individual object more precisely, drag the object into the view. As long as your left mouse button is depressed, tableau will preview the area that the object occupies by shading it in gray.
Double-clicking on each worksheet object in the order in which they appear in the dashboard (excluding the market crosstab which will be used in a separate dashboard) will result in the worksheets being displayed in the dashboard shown in figure 8.12
Figure 8.12: Initial layout of the coffee chain dashboard
Each worksheet has been added into the dashboard and the placement of the each individual views can be improved. Reposition the spark line, object by clicking inside the spark line object pane to activate it; and then use the handle at the top and center of the object, by dragging it into the lower-right area of the workspace. Then, reposition the select year crosstab into the upper-right area above the color legend. When these steps are completed the dashboard pane should look like as one in figure 8.13.
Figure 8.13: Repositioned worksheet objects
Add a title to your dashboard by selecting the show title option in the bottom left of your dashboard shelves. The default title will be the name of the dashboard worksheet that was created by the tableau. Edit the title text by double-clicking on the default name and type in main dashboard-sales analysis. Edit the title font to Arial, 12-point and select a light gray color. Make sure that the title is left-justified. After adding the title it should appear as you see in figure 8.14
Figure 8.14: Dashboard with title object added
Using layout containers to position objects
Layout containers allow you to group objects horizontally or vertically within the dashboard workspace.
Use a horizontal layout container for the dashboard title
In figure 8.15 the “interworks” logo is aligned horizontally to the right of the dashboard title.
Figure 8.15: Title and logo in a horizontal layout container
The title and logo alignment in figure 8.15 was achieved using these steps:
- Drag a horizontal layout container to the top of the dashboard.
- Drag the title object into the horizontal container.
- Adjust the height of the horizontal layout container.
- Place an image object into the right side of the layout container.
- Position the title and image within the layout container.
Add a horizontal layout container to the dashboard by dragging the horizontal object from the dashboard shelf in the area above the title bar as you see in figure 8.16
Figure 8.16: Adding a horizontal layout container
Before you let go of the object be sure that the gray area highlights the full width of the dashboard at the top. This will ensure that the title object occupies the entire width at the top of the dashboard. After releasing the mouse button, don’t worry if the vertical space occupied by the layout container is very large-you can reposition it by dragging up from the bottom edge of the layout container. Then drag the title object into the horizontal layout container.
Now that the title is placed inside the horizontal layout container you can drag an image object into the layout container in the dashboard as you see in figure 8.17.
Figure 8.17: Place an image object in the layout container
Now it’s time to assign a specific image to the image object. Use any image file you prefer for the logo. The example shown uses the “interworks” logo.
Figure 8.18: Fit and center the logo
Reposition the title and image objects within the layout container by clicking in the title object space. Then, point the mouse at the right edge of the title object until your pointer changes to a horizontal pointer. Drag the edge to the right to align the logo with the left edge of the vertical space occupied by the year filter cross-tab object. Your logo should now be positioned directly over the right side vertical space over the legends.
Make the title bar narrower by pointing at its bottom edge and dragging up. The logo probably isn’t centered within the image object. To fit and center the logo on the image object, click on the object to access the drop-down arrow and expose the objects menu as you see in figure 8.18
Select fit the image and center image. Your logo should now be resized to fit in the space.
To complete the title area, add the URL associated with the logo to the image pane. Set the website address by clicking on the image pane to activate the menu, pick the set URL option and type in the website address. Now when the logo is clicked and web access is available, a browser session will open and the website will be displayed.
Now that the dashboard title is complete, turn your attention to the area on the right side of the dashboard containing the year filter crosstab along with the color shape and size legends.
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