Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tableau Design Month - Tooltips

Tableau Public are rocking an excellent set of articles by some of the world's top users of the tool about how they design their visualisations to be the most powerful they can be.

Here's my thoughts on why Tooltips have been missed from this lost so far.

So why is something that is hidden important to design? 

Simply, de-cluttering a visualisation makes it appear more appealing, seem more accessible and in a time-pressured world, quicker to take in for a busy reader. The tool tip can hide a large amount of added detail and that detail can be really powerful to re-enforce the message of the viz. So how exactly would I use this in practice? Also, Tableau 8 allows the user to add additional information in to the tooltip without affecting the visualisation making it even more informative.

Helping tell the story
In the early days of my Tableau journey, I had Tableau’s own Andy Cotgreave present at a user community session showing some hints and tips (you’ll see a theme in this article). He showed me something that just made sense – restructure the tooltip to tell the story of what the user is looking at. The tooltip is the greatest help function on Tableau as it the most user intuitive way to offer the reader help. If a reader wants to explore something more closely, they are likely to move their mouse to that point. And this causes the tooltip to pop up – so why not use that action to tell the story in more depth? For example, what tells the user more, and in the clearest way?


A simple bit of reordering the tooltip allows you to control what the reader will take from the visualisation and clarifies the point. A further design tip from Peter Gilks would be to remove the command buttons in the tooltip to stop a user accidently excluding values, and cleaning the tooltip up all at the same time.

Helping the less experienced user
Not everyone is a Tableau Zen Master or a Tableau-a-holic. For many readers, who might be even first time tableau dashboard readers or only looked at a couple of vizes before, you need to be able to show them what to do without filling the visualisation full of instruction. For most people who know to click on a dropdown parameter box or quick filter it’s pointless aiding over-explanatory descriptions to your visualisation. So how do you find the balance? This for me is where tooltips can be used to help the reader by creating a help button – Jewel Loree demoed the technique in the Tableau Quick Tips and Tricks at the Customer Conference this year and showed the example before (which hit a grand total of a million hits - so lots of new users!). Check out the '? How to use this Map' button...

By using an image as a shape, a tooltip appears when it is hovered over by the mouse. The tooltip tells the reader everything they need to use the viz and get the upmost from it. Genius and clean from a design perspective! 

There are a lot more things that smarter people than I have written about on the Tableau help forums, or in their own blogs. Go and explore and if you find something you like then add it to the comments below.

Happy visualising one-and-all! 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Welcome back NBA - salary analysis

After a long summer recovering from the San Antonio heartbreaking loss, the NBA returns at the end of this month. Like most American sports, the NBA has a salary cap that makes spending above the cap very expensive through additional taxes. The Spurs are known for managing their finances better than most whilst consistently challenging for the title. With Tableau 8.1 (in beta) allowing for Box and Whisker charts, the time was set for this analysis. In this visualisation I have used the new Box and Whisker chart type and Percentiles to explore the team's spending. Here's to a great season. Go Spurs Go!