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Demystifying dashboards in Tableau

This article talks about dashboards in Tableau, how to create them, the benefits of using them, and most importantly where to use them.

Fig. shows a Tableau dashboard talking about mortality and rate of infections in Africa

In the data-centered world we live in, understanding data is the key to making the best decisions for any business owner or consumer. There is an overwhelming amount of data available today and is meaningless unless someone gives an appropriate context to it. Once, the context is applied and the information is interpreted, it becomes imperative to translate it into a presentable format that can be understood by the end consumer. The complexity of the presentations depends on the end-consumer and can be made complex for the SMEs whereas the same data would need to be simplified for the general public. Tableau provides an easy-to-use tool called dashboard to gather all the relevant visualizations in one place and present them to technical and non-technical audiences.

Tableau defines dashboard as a collection of several views, letting you compare a variety of data simultaneously. For example, if there are a set of views related to each other, you can display them simultaneously in a dashboard for the stakeholder to review instead of viewing them in separate worksheets. Dashboards are available as a tab at the bottom of a workbook. Once worksheets are created, they can be used in a dashboard. Data in the worksheets and dashboard are connected. When a worksheet is modified, the data in the dashboard is also modified.

Create a dashboard:

Create a dashboard, in the same way, a new worksheet is created:

  • At the bottom of the workbook, click the New Dashboard icon.

  • From the Sheets list at left, drag views to your dashboard at right.

  • Add interactivity: You can add interactivity to dashboards to enhance users' data insights. Some of the techniques that can be used are:

    • In the upper corner of the sheet, enable the Use as Filter option to use selected marks in the sheet as filters for other sheets in the dashboard.

  • When authoring in Tableau Desktop, add actions to use multiple sheets as filters, navigate from one sheet to another, display web pages, and more.

  • Add dashboard objects and customize: In addition to sheets, you can add dashboard objects that add visual appeal and interactivity. Here's guidance about each type:

  • Horizontal and Vertical objects act as layout containers that allow to group related objects together and define how the dashboard resizes when users interact with them.

  • Text objects are used to give headers, explanations, and other information.

  • Image objects add to the look of a dashboard, and can be linked to specific target URLs.

  • Web Page objects show target pages in the context of the dashboard.

  • Blank objects help in adjusting the spacing between dashboard items.

    • Navigation objects enable the audience to navigate from one dashboard to another, or to other sheets or stories.

    • Download objects let the audience quickly create a PDF file, PowerPoint slide, or PNG image of an entire dashboard, or a crosstab of selected sheets. Note: Crosstab download is possible only after the dashboard is published to Tableau Cloud or Tableau Server.

    • Extension objects are used to add unique features to dashboards or integrate them with third-party applications outside Tableau.

    • Ask Data objects let users enter conversational queries for specific data source fields, which authors optimize for specific audiences such as sales, marketing, and support staff.

  • The objects added to the dashboard can either be tiled which implies the position of the object is fixed or they can be floating which would make the dashboard flexible to manage various objects.

Benefits of Dashboards:

Dashboards are highly beneficial for visualizing and gathering insights from related data. It gives a clear view of the key data metrics that are important to any organization. Some of the other benefits are:

  • Data clarity

  • Real-time analytics

  • More accurate forecasting

  • More intuitive presentations

  • Increased accessibility and transparency

  • Better decision-making and problem solving

Uses of Dashboards:

The usage of dashboards will vary across industries and segments. However, the dashboards can be categorized into the following depending on the business functions:

  • Business dashboards: Companies business dashboards to make important day-to-day as well as long-term strategic decisions. These dashboards can host all kinds of different data, from sales, finance, management, marketing, human resources, and more.

  • Executive dashboards: An executive dashboard is a specific type of business dashboard meant to visualize crucial metrics for the executive team. Usually, the data is high level, but gives leaders transparency into critical business activity and performance to help them make more informed decisions, better plan, and assess effectiveness.

  • KPI dashboards: The key performance indicator (KPI) dashboard is used by subject matter experts, executives, or laypeople. They display the performance of key data points, revealing progression toward key goals. The most important part of a KPI dashboard is to create awareness of KPIs and a way to monitor them on a regular basis.

  • Project Dashboards: This dashboard is a useful tool to track a project's progress and share the same with the team and other key stakeholders.

  • Performance dashboards: The performance dashboard can track everything from overall business performance to the performance of individual campaigns. It is useful for marketing, finance, advertising, human resources, and other business groups.

  • Website dashboards: When tracking site performance, creating a website dashboard is useful. It tracks data like overall traffic, total users, active users, e-commerce activity, sales, and revenue.

  • Operations dashboards: This is a common type of business dashboard which are hyper-focused on helping run the business day-to-day and giving users an end-to-end view of daily operations.

  • Industry dashboards: Since dashboards are versatile and customizable to the needs of the user and business, they’re a common tool across different industries. Industries such as healthcare, marketing, retail, and sales rely heavily on data analysis to make decisions, and dashboards are used to help with decision-making and problem-solving.

Dashboard best practices:

These are some of the points recommended by Tableau to consider while creating a dashboard:

  1. KPIs: Don’t overwhelm the audience with data. Choose only the most relevant data and present it according to the audience's level of understanding.

  2. Elements: Ensure to choose the correct charts, graphs, and tables for each piece of data. The best visual enhances understanding of the data.

  3. Design: Make sure the dashboard is easy to understand at a glance by organizing the data and using a consistent color scheme.

  4. Labels: Be concise and clearly label every piece of information.

  5. Interactivity: Use interactive elements as needed. This allows users to drill further into data as and when needed.


Dashboards are a highly versatile and customizable tool that can be used in any industry, segment, or business function. They help to convey the right message to the end user and are easy to build. A well-designed dashboard can align the organization's efforts, help uncover key insights, and speed up decision-making.

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