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Tableau 101: Formatting Tips and Techniques for Proactive Dashboard Development, Part II

By: Matt Sinisi | January 31, 2019

Hi again, Vizards. In part two of our series on dashboard development, we’ll take you through strategies on how to build holistic dashboards, how to brand your dashboards, and how to get the most out of default formatting.

Level 201: Set Default Formatting for Your Data Source, Measures, and Dimensions

In sticking with proactive versus reactive development, if we set default formats ahead of time we save ourselves a great deal of time by avoiding the task of having to go through individual worksheets on a dashboard to ensure marks are consistently appearing as we would expect. Consider the following tips to get your dashboard production ready ahead of time:

Set default properties for your data source:

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By right clicking on your data source you can set your default start of the week day, fiscal year start month, as well as set an overall date format.

Set default properties for your measures and dimensions:

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Right click on multiple measures to set the default number formats and types of aggregation. You can achieve similar results by selecting multiple dimensions to configure defaults for shape, color, and sorting.

Level 301: Build Holistic Dashboards

Your dashboard is your finished product for your audience. An effective dashboard answers questions, uncovers insights, and drives decision making. The following tips will enable you to format your dashboards in a snap.

Turn on Your Dashboard Grid

Even if we design our dashboards with containers and even if we distribute those objects in those containers evenly we still might end up with visualizations not looking just quite right when placed next to one another. Chances are this may be due to an axis being taller on one worksheet vs. another.

To overcome this issue simply click anywhere on your dashboard and press your “G” key.

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A grid appears on the dashboard, enabling you to align objects easily and consistently.

Use a Range for Sizing Your Dashboard

If you find yourself staying up at night, wondering how your dashboard is rendering on the plethora devices and screen types available to your end users, you are not alone. Compared to earlier versions, dashboard responsiveness is leaps and bounds ahead, but it isn’t perfect. A good way to ensure your dashboard isn’t being overcrowded on a small laptop screen, or over stretched on a massive monitor, consider setting minimum and maximum ranges for your dashboard.

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This way if anyone has a small browser window open, your dashboard won’t continue to resize until it collapses in on itself (and vice versa). Simply set a minimum you’ve decided is reasonable (hey, I don’t want my dashboard any smaller than this), and your user will have to scroll to see the entire dashboard. More likely, they’ll maximize the screen and give it the stage it deserves!

Level 401: Brand Your Dashboards with Custom Color Palettes

Marketing departments love branding. This branding can be difficult to include in documents, slide decks, and dashboards. You can use your Preferences file to set all color attributes for your workbook.

Don’t be afraid to edit that Tableau Preferences file in your “My Tableau Repository” folder. It will not void your warranty, nor will using custom colors break like custom fonts might. Take the following steps to edit your preferences.tps file:

  1. Navigate to the Documents folder and then the My Tableau Repository
  2. Open up the preferences file in your favorite text editor.
  3. Add your company’s color palette (you can grab the css tags from and save.
  4. Now when you open Tableau you’ll see an additional color palette ready to use. No more having to constantly use the ink dropper on your company’s website to add the specific colors.

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Conclusion

Formatting often makes the difference between a good dashboard and a great dashboard. Apply formatting to draw attention to key elements of your analysis. Set defaults to create a consistent feel across the workbook. Use the dashboard grid to put everything in its place. Use your preferences file to stay on brand.

Format your dashboards quickly and appropriately to ensure that your insights are as clear as possible to help drive your end users and your business to success.

Want to see how you can take your Tableau projects to the next level? Learn more about how our experts can help grow your skills today.

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