10 Pro Tips For Designing Your First Tableau Dashboard

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Congratulations! You’ve learned Tableau and now you’re about to design your first-ever dashboard. You’ll be excited to put together all that you’ve learned. But before you jump into that, I want you to take one more learning lesson which is this article.

This will make sure that you don’t do the mistakes that the majority of first-time dashboard designers do and that your dashboard is worth praising. Your first dashboard will be one step closer to the pro level. So let’s get straight into the 10 tips for designing your first Tableau dashboard.

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Tips for designing Tableau dashboard
Tips for designing Tableau dashboard

10 tips for designing your first Tableau dashboard:

1.   Do your homework:

The first difference between a pro and a new dashboard designer is this.

A new designer will jump directly into designing while the pro will take time to talk to stakeholders. He’ll spend an ample amount of time understanding the audience, the purpose of the dashboard and KPIs. He’ll make sure he’s clear on everything about his client’s business.

So your first tip is to have meaningful conversations with your stakeholders and try to understand their business, their agenda for getting this dashboard and the end user. Don’t let any confusion stay in your mind.

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2.   Use templates and be inspired:

Don’t just open Tableau and try to create a dashboard from scratch without having any idea or inspiration in mind. Admit the fact that designing a dashboard does require a little creative thinking and designing skills, and we all know this. So go, take a tour of the Internet, look around other dashboards, and take inspiration. Have some ideas in mind then come back and start.

There’s even a better option than this, it’s using templates. If you find a visualization that can go with your set of data then replicate it. Don’t spend your time and energy creating something from scratch. Believe me, it’s going to be a completely different dashboard in the end.

In short, when you’re starting to design get those creative juices flowing and if you’re having a hard time with this simply use a template.

3.   Use grids:

Now coming to the actual design part a pro tip is to use grids. They’ll help you design as you’ll get a framework to work with. Also, grids are the best for creating story with your data. You and your audience can move from one visualization to another in columnar or in row format and this helps in storytelling.

4.   Use simple colours:

This is the point where the designer inside you comes out to its fullest to play with colours. It looks so fun to choose the best combination and experiment with different colours but is it worth it? How much value is it adding to your dashboard? Do stakeholders and audiences really care about colours? You know the answer.

Choose simple colour combinations, you don’t want your dashboard to look like a candy. Here’s a trick, justify every single colour you’ve used. Answer yourself why you’ve used it. If you don’t have the answer, remove it.

Remember it’s not worth spending hours selecting colours. Don’t complicate this step.

A pro tip: Always use contrasting colours. Don’t use colours that have less contrast as they won’t get prominent.

Contrasting colors for dashboard designing

5.   Highlight the most important metric:

There will be one metric in your dashboard that is the most important, highlight it so the user sees it first. Use a different colour for it so it’ll capture the attention.

This main metric can be a KPI or any other metric that your user really cares about and it tells the ultimate result to the user. This is also possible that your data doesn’t have any such metric but you’ll only know that if you’ve followed the first tip.

6.   Keep it simple:

Tableau dashboard design tip: Keep it simple

When you’re designing your first dashboard it would be tempting to put fancy visualizations and a lot of colours. However, this is a big no. Your dashboard will look horrible and will be the complete opposite of what your actual intentions are.

If you look at pro designer’s dashboards you’ll always find them simple and minimalistic. Keep that temptation on the side and keep your dashboard simple and clean. The more basic the dashboard is the easier it is to understand and work with.

A pro tip: Leave some white space for a professional look. Don’t join charts and graphs to accommodate more visualizations.

7.   Save space while being interactive:

If you’ve more visuals to add and you’re running out of space, don’t try to fix everything at one palace, instead try this trick. Get a little creative and use cards or tabs. This will give more control to the user and it’ll make your dashboard clean and interactive. Let’s understand this with a little example.

Let’s say you add a bar chart showing the expenses of the logistics department for the last 3 years. Now you’ve to add similar charts for marketing, sales and HR department as well. Instead of adding them statically on the dashboard, you can add tabs for these charts or you can add cards as well. The user can select the required chart and your dashboard will be interactive and clean.

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8.   Chart Slider:

Line chart sliders are notable in visualizations. They give more control to the user and make it easy for them to understand the chart and pick the date they want to see.

Add a chart slider if your chart is showing a trend over a certain period of time. However, if you’ve added a chart just to make a point then it’s useless to add a slider there.

For example, it’s good to add a slider in the chart showing sales over the past 1 year, but not a good idea to do the same for the chart showing the sudden decline in job applicants in a company. Here you’re just trying to make a point and the user won’t need to see the data on any random date.

Tableau dashboard design tip: Add line chart slider

Alt-text: Tableau dashboard design tip: Add line chart slider

9.   Name your dashboard:

Give a suitable name to your dashboard so the audience can immediately know which dashboard they’re looking at. This gives them an idea of what to expect in the dashboard.

There’s no need to get fancy here. If you’re designing a marketing dashboard this is what you’ll name it, marketing dashboard. That’s it, this simple step makes a difference on the user end.

10.   Analyze it as the end user:

The last tip is to put yourself in the end user’s shoes and then analyze your dashboard. In this way, you’ll be able to see the flaws and areas of improvement that you would otherwise miss.

Give insights and instructions where necessary. Make the dashboard easy for the end user to use and understand. Because the ultimate success is not how beautiful your dashboard looks and how unique your colour combination is, it is how satisfied the end user is.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1.   How many visuals should be on a dashboard?

On average there should be 5 to 9 visualizations on a dashboard depending upon the complexity and requirements.

Don’t cram more visuals in one place and leave some white space, it looks professional and it’s pleasing to the eye as well.

2.   What makes a good Tableau dashboard?

There can be many ways to answer this question but this is the shortest and the sweetest way. A good tableau dashboard is one that is made for the end user and has the perfect balance of visuals and text.

3.   What is the best size for a Tableau dashboard?

The most common size is 800×600 pixels. For better resolution, you can go with 1000×800 pixels and beyond as well.

4.   What are the components of the Tableau dashboard?

A straightforward Tableau dashboard includes 3 main elements: objects, visualizations and filters.

5.   What are the use cases of Tableau dashboards?

Tableau dashboards or dashboards in general are used for managing and keeping track of data. In a business, dashboards can be used for marketing performance, sales analysis, financial information, web analytics, customer analytics and logistics information.

In a nutshell:

There are a lot of differences between a first-time dashboard designer and a pro designer. To minimize that difference and to make your dashboard look more professional we brought you 10 pro tips for designing your first tableau dashboard. Here’s what we discussed in this article.

  1. Do your homework
  2. Use templates and be inspired
  3. Use grids
  4. Use simple colours
  5. Highlight the most important metrics
  6. Keep it simple
  7. Save space while being interactive
  8. Chart slider
  9. Name your dashboard
  10. Analyze it as the end user

Now you are ready to design your first Tableau dashboard. Keep these 10 things in mind and your dashboard will be a step ahead of most first-timers. 

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Published by Rahul Bhattacharya

Rahul is a journalist with expertise in researching a variety of topics and writing engaging contents. He is also a data analyst and an expert in visualizing business scenarios using data science. Rahul is skilled in a number of programming languages and data analysis tools. When he is not busy writing, Rahul can be found somewhere in the Appalachian trails or in an ethnic restaurant in Chicago.

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