We have all had the internal debate of deciding when building a Tableau dashboard whether to take the time to optimize the dashboard formatting now or publish it as is and format later. Taking the time to invest in dashboard formatting now not only saves time but builds credibility, trust and strong relationships with the users. No matter where you are in your journey, building a new stack of dashboards or fully integrated dashboards everyday, there is no better time than the present to start investing in dashboard formatting.


Define Dashboard Formatting Standards Early On

Defining dashboard formatting and standards early on, will not only help keep the company organized, but saves time and effort later. Standards shouldn’t be complicated, you don’t want to overcomplicate the process but having a handful of guidelines makes dashboards look consistent. Things like: fonts, colors, headers, footers and naming conventions go a long way to differentiate your work from others and build trust in the data.

Containers, Containers, Containers!

Let’s look at one specific example in Tableau. Tableau objects are great elements to integrate into building a dashboard. They help with interactivity, while structuring a dashboard in a more organized fashion. There are many objects you can use to help improve your dashboard, but containers are a personal favorite. Containers can be a pain to initially get used to, but once you know how they are used, they are extremely helpful to keep data in a grid format and maintain an organized dashboard layout. As an added bonus, adjusting the layout and size of the dashboard in mobile, desktop or tablet the containers will auto-size with the changes. When adding chart elements, instead of resizing every time, you can drag and drop the worksheets and more quickly adjust what you need rather than reformatting the entire dashboard.


Include Instructions and Definitions

Information and dashboard functionality may be second nature to the person building the dashboard, but not all users are as familiar with Tableau or the underlying data. Including instructions and definitions upon initial setup allows users to quickly understand the dashboard’s content and purpose.

Instead of having “chart junk” and including long directions and definitions as sub-headers, there are cleaner ways to include these details in the dashboard. Having one spot that includes details helps reduce clutter and builds user consistency; users will know where to look when there are questions.

There are a few different ways to present the information, we’ve outlined below and examples from least to most complex.


Option 1: Information Dashboard

Create a separate dashboard just for information and directions. This is the simplest way to build and get the details to the users. You can create a text container and add in any information and definitions.


Option 2: Information Tooltip

Create a separate sheet and add an info button with a question mark inside a circle as the text. Utilize the sheet tooltip to include information and directions. Add the sheet to the dashboard and when users hover over they will see all the details.

Option 3: Information Show/Hide Containers

This is the most time consuming way to include information. You can use the Tableau container feature to show/hide floating containers that have specific directions and information. Resembling an info button but can hide and show containers or images to overlay on the dashboard.

The User is Always the #1 Priority

Whether your “customer” is an executive, department, manager, or analyst, the end user is your number one priority. It can be easy to get caught up in wanting to build a fun and cool chart using something new you learned and saw on Tableau Public – but try not to lose focus by creating elaborate charts when sometimes a simple table or graph would do the trick.

Keeping the end user in mind as you build your dashboard helps optimize the dashboard formatting and layout and better utilizes your time and the end user. Knowing when to summarize a few data points for an executive vs including trending charts and tables is important and helps build dashboards to meet the needs of your customer efficiently.


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