10 Principles of Great Dashboard Design with Tableau

By Molly Monsey, Paul Sochan

Now that you know how to see and understand your data, what’s the best way to visualize your insights with Tableau? Here are 10 simple techniques for making every data visualization useful and beautiful.

Start with a purpose

What are you trying to say? The single most important step to creating a great visualization is to have a point. After you set your purpose, you’ll be more strategic in choosing what to include in your visualization, and what to leave out.

Choose metrics that matter

Above all, the metrics you choose must be relevant to the dashboard’s purpose. But that doesn’t mean every metric should be included — far from it. Be highly selective in determining which metrics earn a spot on your dashboard.

Choose the right chart type

There is no such thing as a single, correct view for your data. Still, some chart types may be more effective than others. The best way to find the most useful chart type is to visualize your data as each type. Tableau’s Show Me window makes it easy to quickly cycle through all the options.

Consider the audience

How will the end users ingest the information — on a desktop with a big screen, or on a mobile device on the go? And how much information will serve them best? The answer will not only help you determine the size of your dashboard but also the level of detail your visualizations show.

Use colors purposely

Is your use of color purposeful and clear? Do your color choices highlight the data? Refrain from using too many colors, which could blur the focus.

Lose the clutter

Are there any unnecessary visual distractions? Things like your border choice or additional images shouldn’t amount to clutter. Aim for a crisp and clean dashboard.

Prioritize the most pertinent information

Place your most important views on top, more specifically in the top-left corner. Put any supporting views on the bottom or to the right. This makes for an intuitive user experience as our eyes naturally start consuming at the upper-left corner of the screen

Make interactivity clear

Interactivity is crucial in empowering the end users to ask and answer their own questions — including those you didn’t anticipate. To this end, make sure the interactivity is intuitive. Are there clear calls to action? Are legends and filters user-friendly? Do labels provide useful information to the end user?

Design with performance in mind

The more complex the query necessary to create the view, the greater the impact on performance. Be mindful of the number of filters and options you add to your dashboard. Make sure each one is necessary. More isn’t always better; more might just mean slower.

Make sure you’ve designed a holistic dashboard

Make sure all your views fit together to tell a single story. Your views should flow well from one to the next. Your effort and best judgment are critical to producing great visualizations. Make sure the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.