CommonLounge Archive

Advanced Dashboards and Storytelling

March 14, 2018

In this tutorial, we are going to learn advanced techniques in Dashboards as well as the concept of Storytelling. We will also learn some other types of charts such as Tree Maps.

Let’s begin.

In this entire dashboard and storytelling lesson, we are essentially looking at Ship Mode versus different variables such as Profit, Sales, Discount, etc. What this means from an analysis point of view is that we are trying to see what factors, if any, are showing trends in conjunction with shipping modes.

We start with the Sales dataset.

Add the Orders data into the worksheet.

Tree Maps

First we shall make Tree Maps. Tree maps give us relative views of categorical and numerical variables. Data is displayed in nested rectangles with size and color being crucial elements to illustrate the variables being measured. Tree maps can accommodate any number of dimensions; with the map breaking up into smaller rectangles with every added dimension. We usually place Measures on the Size card and Dimensions or Measures on the Color card.

Tree maps are particularly useful for showcasing hierarchical data as well as part-to-whole relationships. They are similar to Bubble charts and heat maps.

Here, we shall use our product categories and profits to construct one.

We will try to gauge how profits vary with categories and sub-categories. This can show us which categories are the top performers and which did not perform well. As an analyst, tree maps are particularly useful since they show proportional performance on key metrics.

To create the Tree Map, add Category and Sub-Category to the Rows section. Add Profit to the Columns section.

From the Show Me button on the top right, select the Tree Maps plot.

Our viz becomes the following.

Save the sheet as “Category and Profit”. As seen here, the Technology category performed the best in terms of Profit with Furniture making the least profit. We can determine this by observing the largest and the smallest sized rectangles respectively as we have placed Profit on the Size card.

Observe the message on bottom right that states “3 Negative”.

On hovering, we can see that it indicates that three data points with negative values, that is losses have not been displayed. Click on the message to view Tableau options to deal with them.

Choose the second option to showcase losses using absolute values. Since, we have placed Profit also on the Color card, largest reddish colored rectangles will now display Loss-making sub-categories while the largest Green hued rectangles will indicate revenue generating sub-categories.

As previously noted, Technology is the most profit-making category while the Furniture department incurs the most losses.

Geographic Spans

Along with departments, geographic spans are also a key metric when gauging profits and measuring performance. As we have city level data, we shall look into what kind of profits were made on the sales orders by city.

Now create a new sheet. Add Latitude and Longitude to the Rows and Columns respectively.

Next drag City to the center of the sheet. The viz is transformed as:

Add Ship Mode to the Color card in Marks panel.

Save this sheet with the following title: “Ship Mode City”.

Time for our analysis! As evident here, First class was the most favored and popular on the West coast and Midwest. Same day ship mode is sporadic and Second class is popular in the south. While not absolutely accurate, these basic inferences help us probe further and determine which hypothesis to investigate further.

Creating a KPI Dashboard

Now we move on to another important concept in visualization — dashboards.

Dashboards are visuals that give a quick overview of important metrics in one single view. Similar to a car or plane’s dashboard that can convey in one glance the summary of the vehicle, its performance and route, dashboards can communicate important metrics and figures about the company or data under review.

Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company or entity is achieving key business objectives.

In this sales data, our key performance indicators or KPIs are Profit, Sales and Discount. Our goal is to scrutinize these parameters by looking at each Measure on an overall basis and then drilled down by the Ship Modes. For this, we will create bar plots for the holistic look and area charts to make observations on the aforementioned KPIs, categorized by the shipment modes.

In a new worksheet, add Ship Mode to Rows section. Add Sales, Profit and Discount to Columns section.

The resulting visual is shown below.

Save the sheet as “Ship Mode Figures”.

If you look at the Y-axis of all three figures, you’ll find that they are different. If you want to see them on the same scale, we can use the Dual Axis and Synchronize Axis options. Here, we leave them as is and instead create an Area chart for another point of comparison. Let’s simply duplicate this viz on a new sheet.

Add Order Date to the columns section before Ship Mode. Next select area charts using the Show Me button. Save the sheet as “Ship Mode Figures Area”. As evident, this sheet shows which Ship Mode had the highest Sales and Profit and which had the least. We also infer that Same Day and Second Class Ship modes generated almost the same revenue and profit since the difference in these two areas is slim.

Now we will actually create our dashboard that showcases these KPIS in one single visualization. We begin by adding a new Dashboard sheet. Tableau provides special worksheets called Dashboards that automatically display the visualizations created until then. Select the Dashboard icon and add the new sheet.

We can see that the left panel shows us the vizzes created until now.

Change the dimensions as 1200 by 650. In this dashboard, we want to understand how to make a large, desktop-styled, corporate dashboard. Tableau does provide customizable dimensions that can be adjusted depending on the dimensions of the devices your audience is most likely to view.

The viz sheet is as follows.

First add the Ship Mode Figures Area to the center of the dashboard.

Add the Ship Mode Figures to the right side of the sheet. Move the color legend to the top of the sheet. Our sheet is as follows.

Dashboard Actions

Now, we shall add some action to our dashboard.

Tableau allows us to add context and interactivity to our data using actions. There are three kinds of actions in Tableau: Filter, Highlight, and URL actions (available on Tableau Desktop only).

  • Filter actions allow us to use the data in one view to filter data in another. This way we can showcase the impact of certain metrics or guide audiences through analysis while remaining interactive.
  • Highlight actions help to call attention to specific results.
  • URL actions allow directing to external resources, such as a web pages, files, or other Tableau worksheets.

Consider the dashboard below.

Add a highlight action to the dashboard.

Highlight the Ship mode and associated figures in both sheets.

On adding this feature, on hovering on any of the ship modes, we see the corresponding figures on each of the sections of the dashboard being highlighted. In the image below, we see the figures for Same day Ship Mode being highlighted.

Creating a Storyline

Now, we shall move on to storytelling aspect.

A little background about storytelling and story points in Tableau. Story in Tableau consists of allied sheets one after another as in a powerpoint presentation. A story can consist of different visuals and / or dashboards to present the analysis being conducted. Analysis can be exploratory or explanatory. In this tutorial, we shall express the exploratory analysis we just conducted on the Sales dataset on our Ship mode metrics over Measures like Profit, Sales, Region, Categories, etc.

The storytelling form lends itself to sharing not only the detailed steps and conclusions of analytical work but also multiple lines of detective work that might have been undertaken.

Note: not all visualizations and dashboards need to be part of the final story and story points.

For our story, we shall showcase the Ship mode investigation we undertook using the viz sheets we just created.

Create a new storytelling sheet by using the storybook icon on the bottom panel. Tableau has three different icons next to every current worksheet — new worksheet, new dashboard, new story.

Notice how this sheet has a caption and a viz sheet.

First of all, we need an introduction page for our story. So, add Introduction to the Caption.

Add the text box from the left panel to the center of the sheet.

This opens up a new window.

We enter the text as below:

“Analyze the performance of orders in different ship modes.

View how the orders compare over time and geography for the parameters of Profit, Sales and Discounts.”

Click on Ok. Our sheet now looks as follows.

Now add a new blank story point from the top left.

Add the caption as “Comparing Profits over Categories and Sub-Categories”

Now, drag the Category and Profit sheet from the left panel to the center of this story point worksheet. Our viz is as below.

Now create another story point.

Observe how the top captions show the next and previous arrows to show the continuity of our storytelling with dashboards.

This time, we add the caption is as: “Viewing Profits over Geographic span”.

Drag the Ship Mode city sheet to this story point. Our worksheet transforms as below.

Add a new worksheet as story point. Put the caption as: “Ship Mode KPIs”

Add the Ship Mode Figures to the worksheet.

Now add a new storypoint with caption as: “Ship Mode metrics-2”. Place the Ship Mode Figures Area.

Now place the Dashboard with caption as “Dashboard” in the next, new Story point.

Our visual becomes:

Our new dashboard story point in the story looks like the following:

Save the worksheet.

Now click on the first storypoint in the story.

Click on the Presentation icon on the top panel. It is similar to the Presentation mode in Microsoft powerpoint.

This leads us to the presentation style of our story.

We can use the left and right keys working for moving through the story as in commonly used demo software.

Also, our highlight actions also work in this mode as well. The screenshot below showcases this.

Importance of Stories

Storypoints allow the creator to convey a guided narrative through a sequence of visualizations, to present context and make a compelling case even while providing interactivity.

Especially in the case of virtual presentations, interactive explorations by audiences, or even the absence of a speaker, the flow of the point being made is not lost or sidelined.

Consider a published visualization with interactive filters on a blog. Visualizations or dashboards with interactivity are good for audiences, but the narrative might get overshadowed by the audience trying to make their own interpretations through exploration. In this case, if we have a statement that we wish to guide the online visitor through, a story is excellent. It helps to retain the interaction aspect while still leading the visitor though each step of our analysis.

Congratulations — you have successfully created an interactive story and learned how to present it!

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