Let’s not overthink Tableau.
It’s a tool, and as a tool it can do some pretty cool things. But only if you have a reason to use it.
Over the upcoming weeks I’m going to focus on specific tangible examples and use cases.
Today I wanted to focus on one easy and powerful way to use Tableau. Creating user interfaces for datasets.
Grab Some Data
Data is sort of a prerequisite for a data visualization tool. So let’s find some.
I went ahead and grabbed some state level GDP data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Checking out the data in Excel
So I grabbed quarterly data that ranges from 2016 Q1 to 2018 Q1. The basic dataset includes FIPS codes, states (and a few regions), industry codes, industry names, and GDP for each and every state for the 9 individual quarters.
All in all we are talking about 1,440 rows of data and 13 columns. At 18,720 individual cells that’s a lot to process with the naked eye. Excel filters, a little bit of in-cell analysis, and some conditional formatting could help but it would take a bit of work and still wouldn’t make for a fantastic interface.
Dropping the Data into Tableau Desktop
So I only did the most basic of basic cleaning by deleting the empty rows at the top of the Excel sheet, leaving one row for titles and the rest of the data.
Then I dropped into desktop, which immediately read the data and organized it properly. There are a few things I would change if I wanted to take the time, but right now I don’t care that much. I just want a different view compared to Excel.
Time to start looking at the data.
For the Tableau sheet I put the area variable (states) in the row column and then drop all the GDP data variables into the columns row.
I setup a state filter and put in another for industry. And I show both quick filters.
So all of a sudden I have something with a tabular view (just like in Excel) but a lot more in the way of exploration options. By just using the filters I can do a bit of basic exploratory analysis.
Playing with Visuals
I think the most fun thing about using Tableau as an data interface is exploratory visualization.
Once the filters are setup and the data are in, you can play around with visuals. Each time you make a change you get a different look at the data. With just a click of the show me tab I had a really nice little small multiple style series of bar charts.
By scrolling across the sheet I immediately had a much clearer picture of the dataset I was viewing. And as a user interface, with no specific questions that I need to answer, that’s all I really wanted.
Want to play with the final result?
Here you go, play away.
Have any useful Tableau examples?
I would love to see them, so please share!