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How to Let Users Choose Between Chart Types in Tableau

Chart types Tips

When I was a kid, I enjoyed reading through Choose Your Own Adventure books. In the books, after every few pages, the reader is presented with choices on how they want to proceed. Each choice will point you to a different page number where a story unfolds based on your selection. I assume most kids reading the books were like me and would cheat by going back and forth to experience all of the different outcomes.

Data visualization can be similar in that looking at the same data in different ways often leads to new insights (or storylines, if you will). Further, some end users will have their own preferences for how they want to look at data. Has anyone ever had to convert a data visualization to a crosstab view?

I’ve shown before how to let your end users choose the dimensions and measures being displayed on a chart. This post shows you how to allow your end users to choose the entire chart type being displayed. Both of these user experiences improve engagement and retention of insights.

 

How to let users choose between chart types in Tableau

The trick to let your end users choose the chart type they want displayed involves a layout container – and as often the case with my Tableau tutorials – parameters. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will be recreating A Tale of 50 Cities. In the visualization, the end user has the option to toggle between a highlight table and small multiple maps seamlessly in a single view (note the filter in the top left corner of the chart).

[Click image to view interactive version]

A Tale of 50 Cities Tableau Dashboard Preview

First, make your individual views as you normally would. My example has a highlight table and a map view, but you can create more than two options.

Next, create a string parameter with a list of choices that correspond with the individual views.

Tableau Select View String Parameter Chart Choices

For a primer on this functionality, see An Introduction to Parameters in Tableau.

After creating the string parameter, create a calculated field that contains nothing but the newly created parameter. This formula will act as a binary; so the calculated field will either match the parameter selection or it won’t.

Tableau Select View Calculated Field

For a primer on this functionality, see An Introduction to Calculated Fields in Tableau.

Now we will use this calculated field as a filter. In order to get this to work properly, you will need to change the value of the parameter to match the view you want displayed before adding the filter. As you can see in the image above where we set up the parameter, the current value of the parameter is “Maps”, so we can go ahead and add the Select View Filter calculated field to the filters shelf on the map view and check the box for Maps.

Tableau Small Multiple Map View with Select View Filter

For the highlight table view, we will need to change the value of the parameter before adding the Select View Filter calculated field as a filter. This can be accomplished by right-clicking on the parameter, choosing “Edit…”, and changing the current value.

Tableau String Parameter with Highlight Table Current Value

After changing the current value, you’ll notice the first view disappears. That means so far so good. Remember the filter is a binary, so if the parameter selection doesn’t match the calculated field, the view will be filtered out. Now that we’ve changed the current value to the second chart type, we can add the Select View Filter calculated field to the filters shelf on the second view (which is the highlight table in my case).

Tableau Highlight Table View with Select View Filter

Now we have two individual views, one has a filter that will only show the view if “Maps” is the current value in the parameter, and the second has a filter that will only show the view if “Highlight Table” is the current value in the parameter. We’re now ready to set up the view.

This is where the magic happens. Set up a dashboard that contains a vertical layout container (which is where we’ll place the individual sheets).

Tableau Dashboard with Vertical Layout Container

Now place both sheets into the layout container; one on top of the other. For best results, hide the titles by right-clicking on the sheet titles and choosing “Hide Title”.

Tableau Dashboard with Two Views Inside a Vertical Layout Container

You will notice that after adding the individual sheets to the layout container, only one view is shown. That’s because we are filtering the views, showing only the view that matches the parameter selection. To make the parameter selection (i.e. choice of which chart to show) available to you and your end users, navigate to Analysis > Parameters and choose the parameter.

Tableau Show Parameter Control for Select View Choice

Now when you toggle between the parameter choices, only the appropriate chart will be shown. Here’s the view when “Highlight Table” is selected:

Tableau A Tale of 50 Cities Highlight Table

Here is the same view when “Maps” is selected:

Tableau A Tale of 50 Cities Maps

I kept the default fits and dashboard dimensions to illustrate this tutorial, but from here you can format the view, change the dimensions, float the parameter control, etc. to create your desired look and feel. As long as you keep the individual sheets in the layout container, the functionality will work. The only side effect is a small amount of white space added at the bottom of the layout container. With only two chart types, it’s hardly noticeable, but something to consider if you want to try this out with additional views.

Thanks for reading,
– Ryan