A Quick Guide to Data Visualization with Tableau

I have been a fan of Data Visualization for quite some time now and I have shared a few posts revolving around this subject in past. With this post, I want to share how you can get started with Tableau… and how it can save a lot of time your analytics team/department is wasting in creating dashboards with Excel macros.

If you are not familiar with the software, here is a short note to help you get the most out of this post:

Consider a case where you have multiple data sources that you are supposed to use in order to come up with a dashboard that your board of executive members want to see, use and interact with.


To achieve this, you will probably create charts out of your data-sets. Well, you can be extremely skilled and comfortable creating beautiful charts based off of your data-sets, but the question is whether your stakeholders are seeing the same thing that you are trying to convey with your charts… because, at the end,  isn’t it more about ‘storytelling’ than it is about ‘data analytics’ ?! :)


With this, you would want to draw actionable insights out of your charts. Here, the keyword is ‘actionable’. No one wants to see a bunch of charts that glorifies or denigrates facts; you, as a data analyst (read: storyteller) want to give actionable insights at the end! Now, your story can be compelling enough in your view, but it is important to have your audience (aka decision-makers) get equally compelled by the story… and this is where the third step comes into the picture, interaction!


Suppose you have a great story with excellent actionable insights… but as a good storyteller, you would want to consider all the layers and all the dimensions of your story to have it make complete sense to your audience! Interaction, as the term suggests, allows you to see your data from all the angles and helps you make the close-to-perfect recommendations for your decision-makers. On top of that, you would also want to empower your stake-holders by allowing them to interact with your data!

Tableau does exactly this! It lets you see your data through beautiful charts (FYI: there are 24 different ways you can see your data through Tableau charts), helps you understand your data to come up with actionable insights that you and your decision makers can use… and at the end, it lets you play with your data through interactive dashboards. And surprisingly, the tool is extremely easy to use and get comfortable with!

If, by now, the tool has captured your interest, the following three parts of this post will help you get started with creating some AWESOME data visualizations on your own! :)

Part One: Show me some cool data visualizations and dashboards

Tableau offers a free public edition of the software anyone and everyone can use to create awesome data visualizations and upload them on Tableau’s public server! Here is a collection of Tableau Dashboards that people have created for different industries and have uploaded them on the Tableau Gallery for everyone to see, use and interact with!

Part Two: Tell me what edition of Tableau I should go for

Based on your requirements, you can get one of the different editions of Tableau. Here is a quick-guide for you to decide which one to go for:

> Tableau Public: If you want to learn and explore Tableau for research or experimental purpose, Tableau Public should suit you the best. Although the public version has its limitation (in terms of type of data you can use to create dashboards with), it has everything you may need to get started with this software.

> Tableau Desktop: If you are a data-driven organization or have an exclusive analytics department or team, you can consider investing into this tool. As an extension, Tableau also provides Tableau Server through which your analytics team can share the dashboards and visualizations with the stakeholders on Tableau Server. There is also a cloud-based alternative to Tableau Server named Tableau Online.

> Tableau Reader: This is a cheaper solution for you if you want to consider getting a Tableau Desktop for your organization and don’t want to invest in Tableau Server. Tableau Reader is a free tool offered by Tableau for people to see, use and interact with your dashboards. All one needs to do in order to play with dashboards created by someone is: Download the ‘reader’ and open the Tableau dashboard shared with them using Tableau Reader. If you have a comparatively small analytics team, you can probably buy one license of Tableau Desktop and get Tableau Reader for all your decision-makers.

> Tableau for Students (One of the many reasons I love and respect Tableau for): If you are a student, this is what you want to get for yourself! Tableau gives a free copy of Tableau Desktop to students who want to learn and expand upon this tool!  All a student needs to do is: register as a student, download the software, install it and activate it using the key provided in the registration email.

Part Three: Getting Started With Tableau

Alright, if you have already got Tableau (Desktop or Public) up and running on your machine, here is a quick guide (OK, maybe not that quick) for you to get started with the software:

Click here for more Slideshares on Technological and Managerial topics.

For past few months, I have been using Tableau for Social Media Analytics; please share what you use (or would like to use) Tableau for – I would be very much interested in learning all different use-cases and exploratory research you do with Tableau.

(Note: I am not affiliated with Tableau Software company in any way, this post is created just out of my love for the software.)

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