Tableau Tip #2 - How to create a parameter to highlight your views

by Ravi Mistry

Dashboards are one of the key ideas to which Tableau is built around. The ability to create a number of charts/tables, or as Tableau call them ‘views’, enables a Tableau user to create something which not only allows a user to interact with and understand data, but also in a format which is visually appealing.

One of the key aspects to get a message, narrative or story across to the user is to create ensure that the method of communication is cleanest, simplest and easiest form it can be in. This means using the tools that Tableau provides to use visual aids to help guide the user experience. It can be done in a wide variety of ways, and has been explored in detail by Stephen Few across his books, white papers and on a few blogs. He talks about effectively communicating numbers in it’s optimal format, and identifies that choosing effective graph design in a way to best tell and communicate the message you are trying to purvey is a problem which isn’t addressed enough in the working world. In the table vs graph debate, a table is seen to give a granular crosstab with details and the ability to find one specific value whilst a graph shows data in a format at a top level view, allowing the user to see trends and identify the highest/lowest values, successful/poorly performing products etc etc. So choosing the correct format to communicate your data is important – but then what? This is where dashboarding not only can bridge the gap between tables and graphs, but the beauty and power means that dashboards can also be customised to be more visually appealing – and indeed, the creator is then able to develop the visuals to match their story.

This signalling helps to direct the user experience away from the noise and toward the signal of the story you want to tell – There are two types of dashboards; exploratory – which allows the user to delve into a dataset and create their own views to answer questions that they might have, whilst an explanatory dashboard has particular narratives that it looks to explore and a distinct story which the dashboard has been designed to tell.

A method to do this is using colour to highlight parts of the data which the user has selected, and this can be done using parameters.

Parameters are an area of Tableau which I didn’t know about until the second week – I used them to some effect in my second visualisation on Education data. One of the methods I used there was a parameter which allowed the user to see which/where the university they had was on the subject table they were looking at by highlighting the bars. Check out the video below to find out how to do this in ‘Sample – Superstore’.