Introduction to Different Types of Charts in Tableau

Introduction to Different Types of Charts in Tableau

Tableau is a world leader in crafting beautifully professional visuals. But equally exciting is its customization features, which allow users to create a wide range of visuals for presenting data in every conceivable manner. The software’s features let you create charts that serve many purposes.

Charts in Tableau range from basic to advanced, and everything in between. Designed to help people visualize important data, you can tailor these flexible tools to your unique needs. But to offer its impressive customization features, Tableau comes with several sophisticated options for creating visuals that are not always the most intuitive.

Therefore, new users may need guidance to unlock all the desirable features of this versatile software. We’ve broken down the most common chart options below. These brief snapshots, along with our helpful cheat sheet, provide a valuable overview for students eager to understand how to best use Tableau for their specific requirements.

 

The “What”

Tableau is a world leader in creating beautiful professional visuals. But equally exciting is its customizability, which allows users to create a wide range of visuals in just a few steps.

 

The “How”

To offer its impressive customization features, Tableau has several complex options for creating visuals that are not always the most intuitive. We’ve broken down the most common chart types into easy steps below. The brief snapshots below, along with our helpful cheat sheet provide a valuable overview of chart types in Tableau.

 

The “Why”

While the type of data being presented often dictates the type of chart being used, knowing how to create each of these common chart types will give you greater flexibility in what you can create in Tableau, and ultimately make you a better visualization specialist.

 

Bars

Bar charts are great because they’re simple. You simply compare data in different categories with vertical or horizontal bars. Bar charts create an easy-to-comprehend visual representation of key data. The size of the bar “columns” represents the data values.

 

Building a Basic Bar Chart

Sales by Market (Regions)

  1. Drag Market data from Dimensions on the upper left to Columns up top.
  2. Drag Sales from Measures on the lower left to Rows up top.

Tip: The option above creates vertical bars. Switch the values between rows and columns to create horizontal bars.

 

Lines

Line graphs are helpful for displaying changes over a set period. Use them to view and predict various trends and patterns for your organization. Some common values and data points include sales, profits, customer numbers, subscribers, and rates. You can plot a single value or several in the same line chart.

 

Building a Graph in a Line Chart

Sales by Order Date (Year)

  1. Drag order data from Measures on the lower left to Columns up top.
  2. Drag Sales from Dimensions on the upper left to Rows up top.

Tip: Be careful of discrete data (blue icon). Use the drop-down menu in the Dimensions Value to choose “continuous data” (green icon).

 

Pie Charts

Ratios, proportions, and percentages are valuable data points. While not always the best option, pie charts are suitable for displaying this type of data when you only have a few values. Note that it’s difficult to compare angles with pie charts. We suggest using them with two to three categories at most in a single chart. You just divide the pie chart into “slices’ that represent each value as part of a whole.

 

Building a Basic Pie Chart

Sales by Market (Regions)

  1. Choose Pie as the mark type in the drop-down menu.
  2. Drag Measure Names to color.
  3. Drag Measure Values to size.
  4. Choose your Measures.

Tip: Label your measures by dragging the specific measure to Measure Names, Measure Values, or Label. 

 

Maps

Display geographic data in Tableau maps. This data visualization tool has several built-in mapping capabilities to let you design simple maps. You’ll need location data to use these tools.

 

Building a Basic Map

Sales by Market (Regions)

  1. Double-click State under Dimensions. This geographic field automatically creates a map view.
  2. Drag sales from Measures to Size on the Marks pane.
  3. Select Map Layers under Maps.
  4. Select Normal in the Style drop-down menu in the Map Layers pane.
  5. Clear Country/Region Names under Map Layers.

 

Alternatively, you can design more advanced maps with some guidance and in-depth tutorials. 

 

Polygon Maps

Polygon maps let you map custom shapes with filled maps. For example, if you’re a nationwide business, you can map sales in each state, coloring them each with their individual sales volumes. But you’re not limited to states. A polygon map allows you to design your own borders.

 

Tree Maps

Tree map charts display information similar to pie charts. But they are more expansive, letting you choose a wider range of values.

 

Heat Maps

Use heat map charts to compare data by color.

 

Lollipop

Lollipop charts compare categorical data. They use circles and bars, mimicking the appearance of candy lollipops. The lines work like the columns in a bar chart, measuring scale. Add color to the circles to better demonstrate magnitude or category.

 

BANs

If you’re working with huge numbers, BANs (Big-Ass Numbers) charts are a good option. These key performance indicators (KPIs) highlight a range of data points at a glance. These are some of the advanced chart types in Tableau that you can use for dynamic impact.

 

Scatter Plots

Scatter charts are designed to show cause and effect or correlations between data points.

 

Tables

Though tables aren’t technically charts, they’re still popular. It’s likely because of users’ familiarity with Excel. A smart recommendation is to start your Tableau chart journey with a table. Ensure that your numbers and calculations are feeding through accurately. Once you’ve verified your data with a table, then convert it to a more dynamic visual.

To create a table in Tableau, double-click the dimension and then the measures you want to display. For example, choose sales and profit data for your columns and sales products for your rows. You can add color to make your table more visually appealing. The only limit to the type of tables you can create is based on your accessible data.

The short Tableau chart descriptions above barely scratch the surface of the options available in this popular tool. But our Business Intelligence & Data Analyst (BIDA) program teaches you more about different types of charts in Tableau and their uses, as well as the advanced features for premium customization and personalization.