Category Archives: Analytics–References

Quick tutorial on reference lines, bands and distributions – visual analytics best practices

The following article features Tableau 6

Reference lines, bands or distributions may be added to your views to emphasize particular values or areas that may be useful in interpreting your data. In particular, when comparing multiple groups or categories of data, reference lines and bands provide immediate feedback on the overall differences between the groups.

Reference lines

Reference lines are vertical or horizontal lines displayed on your view that mark requested values such as average, median, minimum, maximum, sum, total and constants (such as a line that separates the data points as being above or below a target). They can be added on any continuous axis.

1) Open the Sample – Coffee Chain (Access) data source included by default with Tableau 6

2) Place Sales on the Columns shelf and change the aggregate to Average.

3) Place Product on the Rows shelf,
     State and Date on the Level of Detail shelf
     and format
Date to ‘MMMM YYYY’.

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Quick reference for graph and dashboard design

Freakalytics has published to Amazon, Android and iPhone a new quick reference for building better graphs and dashboards. Note that the iPhone and Android apps are now released: search for “Rapid Dashboards” on the iPhone (click here to open it in App Store web site) and “Rapid Graphs and Dashboards” on the Android application stores (click here to go to it in the Android Market web site.)

The Amazon version, “Rapid Dashboards Reference Card”, has all 64 tips readily available on four full-color, laminated pages. The card serves as a handy reference for yourself, your team and even your business audience during design meetings.

iPhone preview, also on Android
Page 1 Excerpt, buy it at Amazon
Page 3 Excerpt, buy it at Amazon

Over the coming year, we will post a sampling of the tips from the reference card on our site. Freakalytics, helping you take your graphs and dashboards from good to great!

Bullet charts and simple enhancements to maximize value

Bullet charts were added to Tableau in version 5.1. They are an original idea designed and advocated for by Stephen Few, at the University of California at Berkeley. The bullet chart is intended to enable easy examination of attainment relative to a target for categorical items.
 
According to Stephen’s original specification, “The bullet graph was developed to replace the meters and gauges that are often used on dashboards. Its linear and no-frills design provides a rich display of data in a small space, which is essential on a dashboard.

I have shown the standard Tableau bullet chart and a wide array of variants in our public training course. Based on extensive attendee feedback, I will share how just a few minutes spent enriching your bullet charts will yield powerful enhancements for your dashboard audience.
 
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Visual Analytics Best Practices—avoid flash, keep it simple!

Why don’t you just show me the numbers?

  • Poor presentation of data can make informative interpretation difficult or even impossible.
  • We spend years diagramming sentences & solving equations but have minimal exposure to telling stories with data!
  • The ability to explore, understand and utilize real-world data is a rare skill that can dramatically improve your organization and career.

Sample revenue data from a university

College Quarter Total Revenue Tuition Research Plan Revenue
Arts 2009-01 $5,510,268 $5,230,198 $280,070 $6,000,000
Design 2009-01 $703,770 $408,762 $295,008 $680,000
Engineering 2009-01 $25,139,083 $6,201,932 $18,937,151 $26,800,000
Sciences 2009-01 $4,439,991 $2,159,010 $2,280,981 $4,400,000

 

A prickly example

While it is indeed looking sharp, this graph is uninformative.
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