Making Your First Tableau Dashboard (Part 1) Dashboard dimensions, floating vs. tiled objects, fixed vs. automatic sizing, and more Ryan walks you through the Dashboard pane in Tableau Desktop to show you how to combine individual worksheets into a cohesive view, allowing you to analyze them in context of each other.

Making Your First Tableau Dashboard (Part 1)

Dashboard dimensions, floating vs. tiled objects, fixed vs. automatic sizing, and more

Ryan walks you through the Dashboard pane in Tableau Desktop to show you how to combine individual worksheets into a cohesive view, allowing you to analyze them in context of each other.

Hi, this is Ryan with Playfair Data TV, and in this video I’m going to give you an introduction to making dashboards in Tableau. I’m also going to give you an introduction to the Dashboard pane and the Layout pane within the dashboard interface. And I’m going to show you all the different objects that are available to you to add to a Tableau dashboard. So over here in Tableau Desktop, you’ll see that the only thing in common between the Authoring interface and the Dashboarding interface is this top navigation. Almost everything else is just a little bit different. It’s still drag and drop, just like the Authoring interface. But all the components are a little bit different.

So I’m going to start by just kind of giving you a rundown from top to bottom of all the different features of this Dashboarding interface.

You’ll see that there are two tabs, just like in the Authoring interface. But instead of the Data pane and the Analytics pane, we’ve got access to the Dashboard pane and the Layout pane. Most of your time is going to be spent on the Dashboard pane, so I’m going to start there. But we’re going to skip this very first item that says Device Preview. We’ll come back to that at the end, but in my opinion, this is probably the thing that you need to worry about the least within the Dashboarding interface, so we’re actually going to skip that momentarily.

The first big decision that you’ve got to make is the size of the dashboard. In other words, the dashboard dimensions. The default dashboard size is called Desktop Browser. And these numbers in parentheses are in terms of pixels. The first number is the width of the dashboard in pixels. The second number is the height of the dashboard in pixels. So what we’re looking at here, the white space currently, by default, is 1,000 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall.

That’s fine as you’re just getting started, but just to point out all the other options that are available to you, if you click this dropdown arrow, this will open a window with lots of other dashboard sizes to choose from. First, there are several preset, fixed sizes. If I click this dropdown, we’ve got this list of dashboard proportions that just came out of the box with Tableau. You can also, instead of choosing Fixed Size, change that to be Automatic or Range. You’ll typically choose one of these first two, though– Fixed Size, which is the default, or Automatic. When I click Automatic, notice that the whitespace expands to fill all available space on this Dashboarding interface.

Also notice the caption here. It says the dashboard will resize to fit any screen it is displayed on. There’s pros and cons to this. This is very practical. In other words, what this is saying is, if you build something in Tableau Desktop in Automatic sizing, it’ll look good and fill your screen on perhaps your laptop at work. But if you were to hand this file off to somebody or display that same dashboard on a different resolution or screen size, all the objects on that dashboard are going to automatically resize to fit the screen. So it is very practical.

The advantage to Fixed Size is it’s a little more precise and a little more predictable. What you see is what you get. If I go back to this fixed size of Desktop Browser, which is 1,000 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall, that’s how big this dashboard is going to be, regardless of the resolution that it is displayed on.

So for me, I tend to lean towards Fixed Size dashboards, just because, from a design aspect, it’s a little more easier to predict what it’s going to look like to my end user. But I try to argue both sides here at Playfair Data TV and just wanted to point out some of the pros and cons of both options.

Because there are so many options in here, one of the most common questions I receive is, what is the best dashboard size? What’s your go to dashboard size? And that answer, unfortunately, truly does depend on how you plan to distribute this dashboard. If I’m building something for an audience that I know will be consuming this on a mobile device, for example, I very likely would like to optimize this for an iPhone, perhaps, or a tablet. If I know it’s going to be seen at a conference and these dashboards are going to be up on huge projection monitors, obviously I probably want to make the objects a little bit larger and give myself more height and width to work with.

But if I had to choose just one, if I’m doing a consulting engagement and my client just doesn’t care about the size, my go tos are these two– Letter Portrait or Letter Landscape. And the reason that I like both of those is they’re both 850 pixels by 1,100 pixels. The difference is one is in a portrait, or vertical, orientation. The other is in a landscape, or horizontal, orientation. But the reason I like those dashboard dimensions is 850 by 1,100 is the same exact size as an eight and 1/2 by 11 piece of paper. And why I like that is it gives me a little more flexibility.

First of all, it’s enough room where I can make a nice looking dashboard within Tableau Desktop on my laptop. But it also gives me the flexibility to either print this as a PDF, which you can do by just going to file and Print to PDF. Or you can just literally print it out on a piece of paper. And both those last two cases, either as a PDF or as a piece of paper, it just gives me the chance to get this dashboard in front of more people. I kind of understand– we talked about this a little bit in the audience video over on the Strategy track. Your C-level executives may not want to be logging into Tableau Server or Online, trying to figure out which dashboard they should be looking at, messing around with filters, interactivity, to try to find the answers.

They very likely aren’t going to do that. But when I can print this out on a piece of paper and put it on their desk, they don’t have as big of an excuse not to look at it, and it just gets it in front of the eyes of more people that could potentially take an action on it. So if I had to choose just one size, it’s this preset, Fixed Size, either Letter Portrait or Letter Landscape. And by the way, if these aren’t enough for you, you can also set the pixels to any custom height and width that you prefer. Again, this is down to the pixel. It’s extraordinarily flexible. You can pick any dashboard size that you’d like to choose.

The next area are the sheets that you have available to add to a dashboard. Before I started recording this video, I went ahead and built four different sheets, just so I’d have some different sheets to add to this dashboard. If you forget to name the sheets, there’s a nice little technical feature here where, if you hover over the sheets that are available to you, you’ll get a thumbnail preview of what’s in that underlying sheet to remind you what’s there.

We’re going to skip Objects for just a moment. I will show you what those do, but the next big decision you’ve got to make is whether you want those objects, as well as the sheets that you’re adding to a dashboard, to be Tiled or Floating. Tiled is the default. Let me show you what happens if I start to drag some things onto the view. If I drag Stacked Bar Chart onto this interface, when it’s in Tiled orientation, notice it’s filling all the gray space on the Dashboarding interface. So if I drop that there, there’s my stacked bar chart. This will make a little more sense when I go to add a second sheet. So if I drag my map below the stacked bar chart.

Notice now I’ve got some choices. I’ve got gray space below it. I could put it to the left of the stacked bar chart, the right of the stacked bar chart. So I’ve got some choices. I’ll just drop it here for now. And if I go to add a third sheet, you’ll see I’ve got even more options. I could fill the top left quarter, top right quarter, bottom left, bottom right, in between, lower 25% or so. There’s all kinds of options, but these are all in a tiled orientation. If I click Floating instead, that does exactly what it sounds like. The next sheet that I add to the dashboard is literally floating over the other three sheets. Notice where that gray space is now. That’s exactly where Tableau is going to drop this worksheet.

So I put it over here. There’s my sorted bar chart, my fourth and final sheet, that I’ll then add to the dashboard. There’s also pros and cons to each of these, just like there’s pros and cons between Automatic and Fixed sizing; there’s pros and cons between Tiled and Floating. Tiled is a little more practical. You saw how fast we were able to make this dashboard. But Floating, again, is a little more precise and predictable. So once you start getting more advanced in your dashboarding and you want to approach it from a design aspect and make it look very nice, Floating is typically a better choice.

But lately, I’ve been using a lot of what I call Hybrid objects. And in fact, we have an example of that now, where three of the four sheets are tiled, but there is one sheet on top that is floating. I might make, for example, my legends floating. Or I might float layout containers, which we’ll talk about in just a moment. Everything else can be tiled, but I might float some objects on top of the dashboards. So I call that Hybrid objects, because I’m using both styles of dashboard objects. Speaking of dashboard objects and layout containers, the next thing we’re going to do is walk through these eight different dashboard objects that are available.

The first two, Horizontal and Vertical, are short for Horizontal Layout Container and Vertical Layout Container. These are called layout containers, because they contain other dashboard objects or sheets. The difference is the first, Horizontal, contains those objects in a horizontal orientation, while the second, Vertical, contains those objects in a vertical orientation. There’s actually one layout container on this dashboard so far. It’s a Vertical layout container. If I click on it, you’ll be able to see it lot better.

Notice that blue outline. That is a Vertical layout container. And currently, it is containing two other objects. It’s containing a color legend and a size legend. But whatever I put into this layout container, I could put other items in here, the dashed line in that gray box is showing me where it’s going to drop this sheet. They’ll all be in a vertical orientation. I could drop line graph in here. And whatever I put into that Vertical layout container is contained in a vertical orientation.

One nice feature about these layout containers– I’ll click any object inside of that layout container, click this down arrow, and then click Select Layout Container to select the entire area– is you can distribute the items within that container evenly. This is a nice little feature that will just guarantee everything is sized appropriately. And you can get to it by clicking this down arrow once you have selected a layout container and clicking Distribute Evenly. I have four objects within that Vertical layout container. And now, I know each of those four objects fill exactly 25% of that Vertical layout container.

The next object is called Text. This is going to do exactly what it sounds like. If I drag Text onto the view, it opens this little word processor. Whatever I type in here will show up as a Text object. To get back into it, I can always double click on it, format those letters, pick a different size, bold, italics, underlined– all of the same types of formatting you would expect to have available to you in a little word processor like this.

Image also does exactly what it sounds like. If I drag Image onto the view, this will open a file on my machine. I can choose a logo or any type of image. And that was what shows up on the dashboard. Web Page also does exactly what it sounds like, believe it or not. If I drag Web Page onto the view, this will open a place for me to enter a URL. And if I type in a URL and click OK, we now have a website embedded right here on our Tableau dashboard.

And also, notice as I’m making this object a different size, it’s responsive. I think that’s a really neat feature that comes with these Web Page objects. The website that you link to will actually resize based on the size of that Web Page object.

The next one is called Blank. It also does exactly what it sounds like. It’s just going to add blank space. This one is really only relevant for tiled objects. So I’m going to clean up some of this, just undo a few times to remove some of those floating objects and get back to where I’ve got some tiled objects. And if I drag this Blank object between– again, it has to be Tiled. If I drag this Blank object between the line graph and this map, notice the gray shading is where it’s going to drop this blank space. And when I let go, it’s just giving these objects a little bit of separation. It’s just a way to do some padding. These next two objects are pretty new. These came with version 2018.3 of Tableau, which was just released shortly after the Tableau conference in October 2018.

Button also kind of does what it sounds like. But it’s a new feature, so let me show you how it works. If I drag Button onto the view– I’ll just throw it up here in the top left corner for now– you’ll see this default looking button. But you can configure this in two big ways. First, you can change the image that’s being used as the button by just clicking within this object, clicking Edit Button, and it will open this little window where you can choose a different image. So you could customize what this button looks like. You can also choose which sheet this button will navigate to.

So if you’re wanting to link to an individual sheet, you can set that here. So if I choose line graph and click OK– one other way you can configure it is the tooltip, so you might want to put some type of call to action in here, such as click here to see the line graph. And if I click OK, notice when I hover over, it says, click here to go see the line graph. And now, to test out this button, I’ll go to Presentation mode. If we hover over it, we’ll see that call to action that we coded. Click here to go see the line graph. And if I click on that button, it navigates me to the line graph. Before this existed, you had to kind of do some hacking in Tableau to get this to work. You could pull it off, but it required way too many steps. If you have not upgraded to version 2018.3, though, there is a video here at Playfair Data TV. Just search for how to add a button to a Tableau dashboard and you’ll find that hack on how you had to do this previously.

And the last dashboard object that you have available to you is called an Extension. Also a brand new feature. Just search for Tableau dashboard extensions if you’re interested in doing this, but these are ways that Tableau, as well as third party developers, can code experiences that take the core Tableau software a step further. There’s quite a few of these to choose from. Just to give you some perspective and show you how they work, there’s already a video up at Playfair Data TV called how to use the parameter actions extension to change date parts if you want to see a real life example of how these are used.

But to add these, just like the other seven objects, if you drag it onto the view, this will first ask you to go find your extension. There’s lots of these to choose from, so I’m not going to give you an example at the moment. You have to download and install these on your own machine. They end with the file extension .trex. So first, you would find that extension and then configure it. But that’s how you would add an extension object to a Tableau dashboard.

So what do you think? Let’s build one of these. I’m going to erase everything I’ve got so far. I’m just going to click Undo to get us back to a clean slate. So here’s where we started. By the way, there’s unlimited undo in Tableau, but there is not unlimited redo. So you’re always safe to undo, as far as, if you want to get back to where you started. But be very careful that you actually want to erase it, because there’s not unlimited redo. But just to show you an example, we’ll throw together a quick dashboard here. I’ll start with my stacked bar chart. I’ll drag that onto the view. And by the way, I’m in the default Tiled orientation. I’ll let go.

Let’s put our map below the stacked bar chart. I’ll put the line graph below the map and the sorted bar chart below the map and to the right of the line graph. The sizing is not perfect on this, but with tiled objects, what you can do is hover between any two of the objects. And when that arrow cursor appears, you can click and drag that up. So I’ll make my stacked bar chart shorter. I still can’t see my line graph and sorted bar chart very well, so I’ll do the same thing between that second row of charts and the third row of charts. When I hover, after that arrow cursor appears, I can left click and drag that up. A little bit too big. Let’s go with that right there.

Next thing I’ll do is put a title on this. There is a one click option to Show Dashboard Title, but you can get a little more flexibility if you use a Text object instead. This will allow you some other horizontal space, in this case, to put some branding or perhaps some other Text object on there. It just gives you a little bit more flexibility. So I’ll drag Text to the very top of this dashboard, let go. For now, I’ll just call this my Playfair Data TV Training Dashboard. Maybe make the font a little bit larger, bold, click OK.

Obviously, that dashboard title is way too large now, but again, because these objects are in a tiled orientation, I can click between any two of them and drag that up a little bit. And then lastly, I’ll drag an Image object to the top right corner. So above all of the sheets and to the right of the Text object that I just added to represent my dashboard title. And I’ll let go. Again, I’ll just grab a logo. And by the way, this is really how I most often use an Image object. It’s to do client branding. One thing I did not show you yet about an image object that I really like is there’s a couple of options to either center this image and/or fit the image.

We have a little bit of an issue right now, because the image is too large. And what it’s doing is it’s only showing me the image that fits in the vertical space of this object. But if I click on this down arrow, I can fit the image. This will fill as much available space, either top to bottom or left to right, to make my image the correct proportions to fit that object. And you can also center the object by clicking into the object and clicking Center Image. And then I’ll just drag this to the right to have this lineup in the right corner. And we’ve got a little bit of client branding.

So that was just one quick example of a Tableau dashboard. We made that in maybe three or four minutes. And I just wanted to point out that this is actually better than most corporate dashboards that I come across. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can do with Tableau dashboards. But just by getting some of these sheets on the same view so that we can see them in context of each other and just using data visualization at all, instead of a raw text table, we’ve already got a huge head start on how most of these companies are using Tableau and doing their data visualizations. Again, we’ve just scratched the surface. We’ll get into a lot more techniques and talk a lot more about dashboards on this track.

But for now, this has been Ryan with Playfair Data TV – thanks for watching!