5 tips to get you by…

Wow, it has been a long time since I last blogged. I got married, went to Thailand got treated for Malaria, since found out it was Typhoid, left a job, started a new job and now moving house. What a busy month! Lets back to it

Whilst I was away I couldn’t help but think of work (guilty), and wanted to share 5 tips that would help new starters get by for the start of their Tableau life and to preach ‘let the data speak for itself’. I know a lot of these tips are shared across many other blogs but I like these ones and had a miracle moment when I found them out. Sharing is caring remember, here they are – I said 5 but really it’s 7….

  1. Blank Calc.

This is a sneaky trick only those who know, know about it. It takes away the annoying ‘ABC’ when you are just trying to show values against some measures. Understandable as always with Tableau there is different ways of doing things. I like using Blank as its an easy reminder when I go back to look at the viz X amount of time down the line. You can change your marks card to Polygon instead. Here below is Blank;



HOW? – Create a calculation called Blank – inside the calculation window put double quotation marks with a space in-between, like the screenshot above. Drop the pill on the Text box on the Marks card and you will see ABC disappear. Adjust the sizes of the cross tab to condense empty spaces.


  1. Advanced pills.

You know that moment when your employer asks you to make it look like Excel? The sentence we all shudder at! Well, Tableau has a default limit of 6 pills on a shelf. You are trying to make a cross-tab adding all the pills to replicate a data sheet and they start joining together in one column going crazy. Now go to the top ribbon in your Tableau workbook to find Analysis > Table Layout > Advanced…> change the default from 6 to 16max > ok. Then waala you can add a number of different measures and dimensions.

NB: You’ll have to update for Maximum levels of row labels AND maximum levels of horizontal row labels


  1. Overcrowding.

Making sure your dashboards are not full of graphs and charts that have no meaning or story value. You want your dashboard to basically paint a picture, to ensure those decisions are made on a clear basis. Less is more when it comes to dashboards, anything to not help confuse the reader and to keep everything neat and tidy… We all know it is better when the data speaks for itself.


  1. Draw out your viz and get to know your data.

This is a double whammy tip but they are both very important. If you don’t know your data how do you know what you are trying to showcase and build? Get to know the trends that are happening and what to use for comparing / contrasting. I always have drawn up pictures of charts that I want to create; as I am not a budding artist it mostly looks like lines on a paper with labels. To have my X and Y-axis in front of me to use as a reference helps me keep focused to the end result of what I am trying to achieve. As well as a rough scale of the layout helps keep in mind what you are showing and remind you what you data measures you are looking at.

  1. Information buttons.

I saw these on a training video and it has changed my Tableau visualisation life! Its so simple yet so effective and people love it. When building dashboards you might be asked to exclude certain fields that aren’t always obvious, so it’s worth putting a little icon that the users can scroll over to learn further information. Some examples I found using these are;

  • Definitions to a subject you are displaying,
  • A formula for a bespoke sum based on a business,
  • What is included or excluded from the findings like cancelled jobs.
  • It could be an explanation to the business as to why you are only showing the previous 3 years instead of 4.
  • Businesses have different Fiscal Years – so you can use the information button as a reminder if again it isn’t obvious.


  1. Freebie tip ! – Filters alignment (you probably already know this)

Now when you have multiple pages of dashboards you might have the same filters on each page. Given you might not have worked out parameters and filters once selected every paged dashboard changes. But at the start and always-going forward I recommend keeping the filters in the SAME order on each dashboard if they are duplicated. I have had to create a project with 3 dashboards inside and they wanted the same filters on each page (don’t ask why) so I made sure the filters were all aligned correctly, matching order, colour and font. It looks neater and makes the users journey a lot smoother to get around.

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