Data Visualization Made Easy

Interactive Visualizations: Finding and Telling Stories with Data using Tableau

On February 5th Tara Walker taught us how to use Tableau Public (a free service offered by Tableau, also known for its Tableau Desktop software). Tableau offers an Academic program for both students and teachers that universities can take advantage of.

After learning best practices for data visualization from Lynn Cherny and how to clean up our data with Open Refine from Seth van Hooland, Ruben Verborgh, and Tom Morris, this introduction to Tableau fit naturally into our DST4L training.

We learned how to use Tableau Public to turn clean data into beautiful visualizations quickly and easily; thus proving that making visualizations doesn’t have to be hard.  In addition to being free to download and use, Tableau Public provides a Gallery of visualizations and a Viz of the Day opt-in subscription to inspire us to continue looking at data differently.

Tableau Public processes data in common file formats like Excel, CSV, and Access.  Be careful though not to use sensitive data as completed visualizations must be saved to their public server. Additionally, Tableau Public offers users the option to share their visualizations privately if they choose. The advantage of using Public is that Tableau provides code to embed and share your visualizations on other web pages.  This link is live, so if you update your visualization in Tableau (by saving it with the exact same filename), it will automatically update anywhere the visualization is embedded.  Be warned though, you can’t save anything without an internet connection!

In our hands-on training, Tara walked us through analyzing data and using Tableau’s visualization features to answer questions.  We were able to bring everything together by creating a Dashboard for exploring the data and a Story to explain our conclusions.

Below is my finished Tableau dashboard:

We wrapped up the day with time to work on our own projects.  We could download data sets provided by Tara or use our own data to create visualizations in this time.  She suggested that we come up with questions based on our data or think of a question and find the data to answer it.

For a full record of our class, check out my notes here: TableauPublicNotes

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