Dashboard design: space saving in Tableau

by Daniel Watt

Designing a dashboard can feel like trying to cram your hold luggage into your hand luggage – you need to pack carefully if you want to zip it up.  Assuming you have already cut down the data and metrics to the bare minimum, here are some Tableau functions that can help you save space or increase readability on a crowded dashboard:

  1. Combining charts can work in some circumstances by plotting a more direct measure.  For example, if your user needs to know the sales per customer over time, don’t display a chart for number of customers alongside a chart for sum of sales – combine the measures and just plot the sales per customer.  There are also occasions when using a dual axis could work for displaying two compatible measures, eg. maximum daily temperature and minimum daily temperature.
  2. Get smart with parameters to allow your user to land on a screen with the key metrics and then move on to look at secondary measures or  secondary aggregations on the same key metrics.  You could also use parameters to turn on and off benchmark lines or even get charts to pop up / disappear using auto-sized containers.  Parameters are more compact when set as a drop-down.
  3. Chart junk is anything that is taking up pixels on the page without adding any value to the user in terms of meaning.  Be ruthless is removing chart junk.  For example, an axis label may be unnecessary if the measure is obvious from the chart title, from where it is grouped on the page or from how it is coloured.
  4. Tooltips allow you to add supplementary or drill-down information without taking up space on the page.  Just be aware that this information will be unavailable if your user wants to print the screen.
  5. Dashboard actions can be used as a space saving alternative to parameters or filters.  Why not use your primary chart to filter or highlight the other charts on the dashboard?

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