Category Archives: Visual Analytics–Best Practices

Joyful or informative charts? Best practices in visual analytics

Small_packed_bubble_chartStephen Few, noted visual analytics expert and the original inspiration for our work in the field, recently wrote about criticisms of best data visualizations practices. In particular, Amanda Cox of the New York Times said, "There’s a strand of the data viz world that argues that everything could be a bar chart. That’s possibly true but also possibly a world without joy." And Nathan Yau of Flowing Data wrote, "in visualization you eventually learn that there’s more to the process than efficient graphical perception and avoidance of all things round. Design matters, no doubt, but your understanding of the data matters much more." These are both people who have a body of work that I admire but I am also surprised at these comments.

This discussion reminds me of a similar problem in marketing and web analytics. Generating traffic that leads to sales is good. Eventually, someone finds a way to generate traffic that leads to not many new sales, but management is misled to think this must be good since traffic leads to sales. This is similar to "look, this chart is beautiful", but hard to interpret or understand. So, while we delivered fun graphs, minimal information is shared. This may be good for traffic, but not so much for higher sales.

I suspect that part of this recent criticism can be traced back to Stephen's recent criticism of Tableau, "Tableau Veers from the Path". In it, he mentions a new graph type in Tableau, packed bubble charts and contrasts them with bar charts. This is an example of the "avoidance of all things circular". Is Stephen truly anti-joy@f16 Will an example show him to be wrong@f17 Let's give it a try and you can judge for yourself.

Here's a packed bubble chart example Continue reading

Tableau Tips: Nested sorting not as expected- a simple fix

Many students have been confused about the Tableau data sort behavior.   A common question is how to sort the data at a lower level correctly within each higher level of data in a view.   One student recently came to us with this view and asked, “What’s up? I thought it would sort each state independently within each Product Type! In the first group, Herbal Tea, Nevada is clearly number one yet it is shown in the fourth position.”

 

Tableau_Tips_Nested_Sorting_1_Freakalytics

 

Solution

I replied that Tableau was sorting State overall across every product type once for the entire table and then displaying this sort order for every Product Type.   She said this is “stupid, how can I fix it! I wasted hours trying to fix it already.”

Login to see the solution including a solution workbook! If you haven’t joined Freakalytics yet, it’s free and easy.   Just click signup.
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February 2013 Newsletter

Thank you for your interest in our newsletter. Please share it with your colleagues that can benefit from it.

Tableau 8 for The Accidental Analyst
A One-day Workshop

 
Click to read about it and order
 
A one-day, intensive hands-on workshop for newer users of Tableau. Using a case study approach, attendees will learn the essentials of how to use and apply the key features of Tableau to answer questions in their daily work and display their results in analytic dashboards ─ no Tableau experience required!

      + Chicago, March 18th
      + Denver, March 20th
      + Austin, March 22nd

For more information and registration, see www.AccidentalAnalyst.com.

This course was launched at the Tableau Customer Conference 2012 and 98% of attendees surveyed stated they would recommend this course to colleagues. Comments from the first workshop include:
      “Jam packed with tons of information.”
      “The step by step examples are great.”
      “Walking through thought process instead of just how to do a series of features.”
      “I liked how it was a very interactive class with how hints and tips provided.” and
      “…like the material on preparing the data.”

Better Analytics in Tableau 8 Videos

 
Map-better-analytics-tableau-8-freakalytics-2
 
In advance of Tableau 8, Eileen and I have produced 8 analytic videos with solutions included. These videos explore a few of the many new analytic possibilities in Tableau 8.  You can view the Better Analytics in Tableau 8 videos at www.Freakalytics.com/articles

User (note that videos at the top of each article don’t require login) 
newsletter
Password (this one expires on the 24th or just sign up for an account) 
24feb

Topics in Part 1
      + Multi-item color encoding
      + Multi-item data labels
      + Creating sets in Tableau 8
      + Union, intersection and partial sets; using sets in calculated fields

Topics in Part 2
      + Treemaps and packed bubble charts
      + Automatically selecting the right data for your analysis
      + Forecasting for smarter planning
      + Google Analytics on the desktop–fast, beautiful and blend it with your data

We always enjoy hearing your thoughts, feedback and ideas- please drop us a line sometime.

Best regards,
Eileen McDaniel, PhD and Stephen McDaniel
Freakalytics, LLC

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Show growth over time but hide the baseline in Tableau

A client asked,

"What I want to show is a YoY (year over year) or WoW (week over week) comparison - however the first data point is always missing - even when the underlying data are available.

For example:
The full set of data shows a null value for 2006 - just because there is no data available to compute a comparison.
Now I want to move the date filter to start @ 2007 - and now 2007 has a null value even though we have data available to compute that metric.
" What's the issue and how can I display only years Continue reading

Data Driven Conference 2012

We are having a great time at the Data Driven Conference in Columbus! Our first session was standing room only and we are presenting the same talk a second time at 1:30 in E161.

Interesting questions include "how do you become better at asking the right questions that lead to better analysis" and "how do you communicate with IT to get better data"?

To buy a copy of The Accidental Analyst, please visit www.AccidentalAnalyst.com.

Here is our infographic that we created Continue reading

Patriotic colors and maps in Tableau (US colors)

 
While preparing for a conference, we decided to create a map to show the US states using patriotic (US flag) colors.   The colors of the US flag are precise, so we needed to modify the Tableau preferences file to use the correct colors (also, white is not part of the Tableau color palette for discrete data items.)

After modifying our Preferences.TPS file with a new US Flag color palette and saving it to My Tableau Repository (a directory, typically in My Documents), we were able to create the red, white and blue map of the US!   To download the Maps, a sample workbook and the changed Preferences.TPS file, just log in below.

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Book Excerpt: Tableau 7 Quick Table Calculations and Custom Table Calculations

This is a free preview from Rapid Graphs with Tableau Software 7, available in print and Kindle on Amazon and on the Nook at Barnes and Noble. Due to width constraints on this blog, you may notice some loss in resolution compared with the purchased book, which has approximately 2.5 times better resolution.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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2012 NCAA football rankings–ranks per poll & overall ranking

Teams inlcuded in this week:
USC, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Texas, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska, TCU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Florida, Boise State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Washington, Auburn, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Utah, NC State, Baylor, South Florida, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Brigham Young, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Virginia, Louisiana Tech, UCF, Houston, Rutgers, Southern Miss, Missouri, Florida Intl, Northern Illinois, Texas Tech

Conferences included in this week:
SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East, USA, Ind, Mid-Amer, Mntn Wst, Sun, WAC
 
 
 
 
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2012 NCAA football rankings–top 25 teams per conference

Teams inlcuded in this week:
USC, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Texas, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska, TCU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Florida, Boise State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Washington, Auburn, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Utah, NC State, Baylor, South Florida, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Brigham Young, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Virginia, Louisiana Tech, UCF, Houston, Rutgers, Southern Miss, Missouri, Florida Intl, Northern Illinois, Texas Tech

Conferences included in this week:
SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East, USA, Ind, Mid-Amer, Mntn Wst, Sun, WAC
 
 
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