When You Should Make a Tableau Pie Chart and When You Shouldn’t

Tableau Pie charts should almost never be used.  While you can build them in Tableau, and they are accessible from Tableau Show Me, they are not the best chart type to use.  Your eye is much more adept at comparing lengths of bars than angles of Tableau pie slices, especially as you start to add lots of pie slices to the view.  A Tableau pie chart is typically only useful with two slices/colors.  Eat pie with your friends, but don’t let your friends create a Tableau pie chart. 

How to Make a Pie Chart in Tableau

That being said, if the need arises to build one, this is how it’s done: 

  1. Create a new worksheet.  Title it Tableau Pie Chart. 
  1. On the Marks card on the left, change the drop down from Automatic to Pie. 
  • Notice that a new box appears entitled Angle. 
  1. Drag Ship Mode to Color to color the slices of the pie.  Each element of the Ship Mode Dimension will be one color. 
  1. Now, drag Profit to the Angle shelf.  This will get the proportions of your Tableau pie chart correct and show you what percent of the overall profit each ship mode represents. 
Tableau Pie Chart

Tableau Pie Charts on Maps 

We’ve already reviewed that pie charts should be used sparingly.  But sometimes it’s interesting to see a geographic representation of totals with breakdowns of those totals for smaller geo segments. 

Let’s say we want to see % of total profit by region on a map, and then we want to see which product categories are driving those profits in each state within a region.  To do that, we could place pie charts on top of a map. 

  1. Bring Longitude to Columns, Latitude to Rows. 
  1. Then drag Buyer State out on top of the map.  This zooms the map into just the United States. 
  1. Drag Profit to the Color shelf. 
  1. Using the drop down menu on the Marks card, change the selection from Automatic to Filled Map. 
  1. Edit the colors by clicking on the Color shelf and changing the color scheme to Red-Black-White Diverging. 
  1. Select Stepped Color and set it to 4.  Choose ok. 
  1. Right click on and exclude Alaska. 
  1. Title the chart Profit by Region.  You should now have a view that looks like this: 
Tableau Map
  1. Now hold down the Ctrl key and click on the Latitude pill on the Rows shelf and drag a second instance of Latitude to the right.  This will create another axis that we can manipulate. 
How to Make Tableau Map Pie Chart
  1. Click the drop down arrow on the second Latitude pill and select Dual Axis. 
  1. Now, click on the second Latitude shelf on the Marks card.  Be sure you select that second one and that you aren’t on All. 
  1. Set the drop down selection from Filled Map to Pie. 
  1. Then, drag Profit to both Size and Angle. 
  1. Now, drag Product Category to Color. 
  1. We can now see that across the US, profits are mostly driven by Technology, but that the Midwest and North Central states are the most profitable. 
  1. If you wanted to take this a step further, we could right click on our sheet and Duplicate it. 
  1. Drag Region to the Pages shelf. 
  1. Build a new dashboard with both of these worksheets. Ensure the one with Region on Pages is the bottom chart. 
  1. Rename the top chart to “Profit Across the United States by Product Category.” 
  1. Rename the bottom chart to “Profit by Region by Product Category.” 
  1. Move the Pages shelf control to the middle in between the two charts and size it down so it all fits on one line. 
  1. Reformat the legends so that they are better spaced within the viz, and we eliminate the box on the right. 
Tableau Pie Chart on Map
  1. Click the drop down menu on Region and mouse through the different regions to determine the major profit drivers per state. 

We are glad to have enlightened you about Tableau pie charts, why you should use them sparingly, and when you can actually use them in a rather cool way. We offer more tutorials that can help you realize and acquire Tableau skills that you wouldn’t learn if you were self-learning. Check out our training packages today!