To get started with your journey to becoming proficient in Tableau, you need to have a good understanding of the Tableau interface. In this blog, we will discuss the different Tableau menus you’ll see and describe how you can efficiently use them in building simple visuals.

Describing the Main Tableau Interface 

  • Along the left-hand side of the Tableau Interface, you have the data pane. This is where the data from the table or tables you just imported gets sorted. 
Tableau Interface
  • Tableau automatically sorts the data based on its type. We’ll discuss this more in the next lesson.  
  • For now, it’s enough to know that on the Tableau interface, this is where your data is. Also, you should remember that by either double-clicking on a particular field or by clicking and dragging it onto the main pane, you can begin to create visualizations. 
  • Included on the Tableau interface is a special data querying language which runs under the hood. This feature of Tableau is specially designed to create visuals. In Tableau, visuals are created faster than text is. So, by dragging a field called “Sales” into the main area of the Tableau interface and another field entitled “Date,” Tableau will automatically create a line chart for you. This enables you to move at a significantly faster speed and enables you to think of and answer questions in real-time. 
  • To the right of the data pane in the Tableau interface, you have a column of formatting options. These control formatting, filters, and interactivity that you can add to the visualizations you create. You’ll see these consist of the Pages shelf, Filters shelf, and Marks cards. We’ll discuss those in more detail. 
  • The columns and rows shelves in the Tableau interface are where you place the data (or you can drag information into the grid diagram that looks like what you’d see in a pivot table in Excel). As a general rule, start by placing what you want onto the rows shelf. Then move things around to achieve the desired layout from there. 

Using the Tableau Interface to Building Simple Visualizations

  1. At the bottom left side, you’ll see a section entitled Measures. Double click the Sales metric. You’ll see it instantly goes to the Rows shelf. 
  1. Above the Measures pane, you’ll see an area labeled Dimensions. We’ve discussed the differences between Measures and Dimensions here. Double click the Order Date metric. You’ll see it goes to the columns shelf. 
  • Because we’ve placed a date field in the view, it chooses a line chart as the first visualization.  But you can change that view to several other options if you want to display your data differently. 
Tableau User Interface
  1. On the Marks card in the Tableau interface, click the drop-down arrow and switch the type from Automatic to Bar. You’ll now see a bar chart.   
  1. Now, change it back to Line. 
  1. You’ll see next to the date at the top of the Tableau interface, there is a plus sign on the blue pill. Click that plus sign. You’ll now see both year and quarter on the view. Click that plus sign again to see months. Now click the quarter pill and drag it up and off the view.  
  • You’ll see that the quarter partition is removed from the view and you now have a line chart at the year and month level. These are called date hierarchies and will be discussed in much more detail in our upcoming blogs. But this is a quick intro just so you can start to build some simple visualizations in Tableau.  
Tableau Web Interface
  1. Open a new worksheet at the bottom of the Tableau Interface by clicking the tab with a bar chart and plus sign icon next to Sheet 1. Double click Order Date under Dimensions. Then double click Sales under Measures.  
Tableau Interface Navigation
Tableau Interface Menu
  • In the first example, we started with a measure first, then a dimension. When you do that, Tableau builds a visual chart as the default. This is to help you quickly visualize your data and start to find insights. If you want to build a text table to begin with, like in the second example, first double-click a Dimension, then a Measure. Note that Tableau defaults whatever field you double click to the Rows shelf first and that, in addition to the metrics you select, will determine whether it’s a chart or table and the chart type.  
Tableau Interface Guide
  • In addition to double-clicking fields from the Dimensions or Measures panes, you can also click a field once and drag it onto the view, much like you would with a Pivot Table.  

This is just the beginning of understanding the Tableau interface. We will be publishing more blogs to help you on your journey. You can also take a faster route to success by getting our individual or corporate Tableau training courses.