Develop Your Design Process with Tableau Dashboard Best Practices

When you spend a lot of time building dashboards, you tend to develop an approach or ways that make it easy to create the next one. After a while, you realize there are always ways to improve your design process in general. Today, I will answer share my Tableau dashboard best practices to help you through the whole process.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post sharing tips on what makes a good dashboards. In that post, I took apart the excel dashboard below and showed ways we can improve it. In the post, I also spoke about how there was no flow in the dashboard because we have information about sales and customer satisfaction thrown together.

Tableau Dashboard Best Practices Based on Worst Dashboards

Tableau Dashboard Best Practices

In this post, I will share my Tableau dashboard best practices by rebuilding the same Excel dashboard using the Superstore data set with a focus on the Sales information. I will walk you through my thought process in recreating it to meet dashboard design and Tableau Dashboard best practices.

1. Gather document requirements

The first thing I do before starting out any development work is to capture the relevant information needed to design and build the dashboard. This is probably the hardest Tableau Dashboard Best Practices. It is hard to identify what information you need. So, it is best to list questions first. Then, find data that can answer them.

For this dashboard, I came up with the requirements from the existing Excel dashboard. I wanted to create a Sales dashboard that a user can easily read to find out how well the business is performing right away, focusing on metrics such as Sales, Order Quantity and Shipping Cost.

2. Make sketches

One of my must-do Tableau dashboard best practices is drafting sketches. Before I build dashboards, I like to have a basic idea of what it should look like. I usually sketch out the design to make it easy when I start to build. Below are some of my attempts at sketching out the design and although my sketching skills are not so great, it makes it easier for me get the layout the way I want as well the chart types I want to use.

Another reason why I love to sketch is that it helps me to avoid over clutter. In the examples above, I restricted the chart types to just 3; bar charts, line charts, and donut/ gauge charts.

Sketching a Draft is One of the Best Tableau Dashboard Best Practices

3. Choose chart types and analysis

One of the Tableau Dashboard best practices that a lot of data analyst get wrong is the selection of chart types. It is important to select the correct chart types for your views. There are 3 major metrics that we analyzed in the original Excel dashboard. I kept it the same for the makeover dashboard but divided them into sections that made the analysis easy to understand and read.

It is always good to know what type of analysis you want to perform and the type of charts that are best suited for communicating the insights you discover. This is the stage to ask the questions I want answers to. For example, how do Sales perform in each region?

4. Divide the dashboard into sections

Dividing dashboards into sections is one of the most crutial Tableau Dashboard best practices. You need to divide it into bite size pieces for easier analysis and understanding. But with tons of data, you might find yourself drowning. The key is to go back to the questions you want answered and then get back to the drawing board.

I decided to divide the makeover dashboard into 4 major sections; the KPI section, the bar charts to analyze categorical data, line charts to show the various trends and gauge charts to compare performance in the various segments.

5. Build your views

Having an idea of what views to include allows you to save a lot of time in the development process. If the above Tableau Dashboard Best Practices hasn’t worked for you, below are more tips for you to succeed.

KPI charts

Using BANs is one of the coolest Tableau Dashboard Best Practices that can help show KPIs that lets you track right away how well your business is performing. You can simply build this by selecting the various dimensions and using the Show Me text table option or simply use the Measure Names and Values to build this.

You can check out this excellent post by Tableau zen master Steve Wexler that recommends the use of BANs in our dashboards and the reasons for that.

Use bar charts

Using bar charts is one of the Tableau Dashboard best practices that can help show how the major metrics look compared to various regions. Be sure to put labels on top of the charts and place them in boxes to easily show that there are separate metrics on your bar charts.

You can build horizontal chart in Tableau by placing the dimension field, in this case, Region, on the Row Shelf and the measure or metric (Sales) on the Column Shelf.

Use line charts

Using line chart is one of the Tableau dashboard best practices that will allow you  to display the trend of the metrics you want to measure. Just as with the bar charts, put labels on top of the line charts and put them into separate boxes to make it easy to know what trend you’re looking at.

Use gauge charts

Using gauge charts is one of the coolest Tableau Dashboard best practices in showing nformation. If you want a cool way to show what the percentage of data, use it to your advantage. Initially, I had decided on a donut chart but this did not look good in the final view the way I imagined it.

Since I wanted them to show in a vertical format, I settled on using the multiple gauge chart. You can check out my detailed blog post on how to build a multiple gauge chart here.

6. Bring it all together

After creating all the views, the next most important Tableau dashboard best practices are how well you can them together on the dashboard and make it both appealing and functional. You can achieve this by considering the following options below;

7. Select a layout and arrangement

This is when our must-do tableau dashboard best practices becomes useful. Since I had already sketched the layout of my dashboard, arranging the various views on the dashboard becomes a lot easier. It is best practice to design your dashboard to a grid layout. 

Before I start placing my charts on the dashboard, I use layout containers to create boxes for them as shown below. For this dashboard, I used a 1500 x 900 layout.

7. Do some formatting

If you are not formating your dashboard, then you are missing out on one of the most important Tableau best practices. After creating views, I like to remove all grid lines from the charts to make them look clean. I also remove the borders from the individual charts and use the layout containers instead or sometimes just leave the borders around the chart as-is and not use a border around the container.

8. Use dashboard actions for interactivity

Using dashboard actions is one of the Tableau dashboard best practices that can improve interactivity. Therefore, it is a huge plus!

I decided to use dashboard actions to filter the charts based on a region bar clicked. Dashboard actions can be implemented using the Dashboard menu. To create a dashboard action, click on the Dashboard menu from your dashboard and select Dashboard actions. In the dialog box select the filter option and select the sheets to apply the actions on.

9. Include the necessary filters

Try exploring Tableau for more interactive filters. This Tableau Dashboard Best Practices can lead to more gold discoveries within the app.

The other interactive feature I used was a parameter that filters the dashboard based on the current month, last quarter and last 12 months. Below are the steps I used to create this filter.

First, I created a parameter to use as a reference date to create the various calculations against. I used this to be able to select what my current date was.

After creating this parameter, I created the various calculations for the current month, last quarter and last 12 months.

After this, I created this date range parameter

And then a calculation to link the date range parameter and the various date ranges i.e. current month, last quarter and last 12 months.

On the dashboard, I placed the Date range filter on the top right-hand side of the dashboard to let users know it is a global filter. Click here to view the interactive version of the dashboard.

Sample Dashboard Implementing Tableau Dashboard Best Practices

Conclusion

In all, having a process and knowing some Tableau Dashboard Best Practices help make a good dashboard. Now on to you readers, what do you think about the makeover of the Excel dashboard? Is there anything you want to add or take away from our Tableau Dashboard Best Practices List? Have you implemented our Tableau dashboard best practices? Please leave your comments below. Get Tableau training today to know more.