Best Practices for Effective Dashboards

A well-designed dashboard can align your organization's efforts, help uncover key insights, and speed up decision-making. Use this topic for tips on best practices for creating effective dashboards in Tableau.

What's your goal?

Know your purpose and audience

The best visualizations have a clear purpose and work for their intended audience. What will you be trying to say with this dashboard? Are you presenting a conclusion or a key question?

In addition to knowing what you're trying to say, it's important to know who you're saying it to. Does your audience know this subject matter extremely well or will it be new to them? What kind of cues will they need? Thinking about these questions before you head into the design phase can help you create a successful dashboard.

Leverage the most-viewed spot

Most viewers scan web content starting at the top left of a web page. Once you know your dashboard's main purpose, be sure to place your most important view so that it occupies or spans the upper-left corner of your dashboard. In the dashboard below, the author decided that the map view holds the key message.

Design for the real world

Author at your final display size

By default, Tableau dashboards are set to use a fixed size and if you keep this setting, be sure to construct your visualization at the size it will be viewed at. You can also set Size to Automatic, which makes Tableau automatically adapt the overall dimensions of a visualization based on screen size. This means that if you design a dashboard at 1300 x 700 pixels, Tableau will resize it for smaller displays—and sometimes this results in scrunched views or scrollbars. The Range sizing feature is helpful for avoiding this.

If you're using Tableau Desktop to create dashboards, you can also design for specific device layouts, so that on tablets, for example, your dashboard contains one set of views and objects, and on phones it displays another. See Create Dashboard Layouts for Different Device Types for steps.

Limit the number of views

In general, it's a good idea to limit the number of views you include in your dashboard to two or three. If you add too many views, visual clarity and the big picture can get lost in the details. If you find that the scope of your story needs to grow beyond two or three views, you can always create more dashboards.

Too many views can also interfere with the performance of your dashboard after it's published. See Make Visualizations Faster for more details on performance.


Click the image to replay it.

Be security-savvy

A dashboard can include more than just views, it can include objects—including embedded web pages. If you include web page objects in your dashboard, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • HTTPS: When you add a web page object to your dashboard, you're prompted to specify a URL. It's a best practice to use HTTPS (https://) in your URL. This ensures that the connection from your dashboard to the web page is encrypted. Also, if Tableau Server is running HTTPS and you use HTTP in the URL, your users' browsers won't be able to display the web page that the URL points to. If you don't specify a protocol, HTTP will be assumed.
  • Plug-ins: If the web page object requires a plug-in, such as Adobe Flash, the plug-in must be installed on the computer that's running Tableau. The Tableau component that handles plug-ins requires that Safari be installed as well.
  • Web view security options (Tableau Desktop only): You can control whether the web page object has JavaScript and plug-ins enabled, among other things. To adjust them, select Help > Settings and Performance > Dashboard Web View Security, and then clear one or more of the options listed below.:
    • Enable JavaScript. Allows JavaScript support in the web view. Clearing this option may cause some web pages that require JavaScript to function improperly in the dashboard.

    • Enable Plug-ins. Enables any plug-ins the web page uses, such as an Adobe Flash or QuickTime player.

    • Block Pop-ups. When selected, blocks pop-ups.

    • Enable URL Hover Actions. Allows URL hover actions. For more information, see URL Actions.

    Note: Any changes you make to the security options apply to all web page objects in your workbook, including new web page objects you create, and all subsequent workbooks you open in Tableau Desktop. To see your changes, you may need to save and reopen the workbook.

Add interactivity to encourage exploration

Show filters

Filters help users specify which data is shown in the view.

To turn on filters for a field:

  • In Tableau Desktop—Right-click the field in the Data window and select Show Filter.

  • In Tableau Server or Tableau Online—In the toolbar click Show/Hide Cards > Filters.

You can customize each filter for different types of data. For example, you can show filters as multi-select check boxes, single select radio buttons, or drop-down lists, etc. You can include a search button, the option to show all fields, null controls, and more. You can also edit the title of a filter to give your viewers clear instructions for interacting with the data.

Enable highlighting

You can use the Highlight button on the toolbar to set up highlighting between views. When highlighting is turned on, a selection in one view will highlight related data in the other views. You can turn on highlighting for all fields or select specific fields. For more information about the different methods you can use to highlight data, see Highlight Actions.

You can also display a highlighter that allows your customers to highlight parts of a view based on what they enter or select.

To display a highlighter:

  1. Go to the worksheet where the view is (or select Go to Sheet from the dashboard).

  2. Right-click the field you want to highlight and choose Show Highlighter:

    In the highlighter, your users will be able to select or enter terms to highlight data in the view:

Save time

Use the Go to Sheet command

The views in a dashboard are connected to the worksheets they represent. Tableau provides short-cut menus to help you quickly accomplish basic tasks, like jumping from the dashboard you're working on to the original view, where you can perform other actions.

To jump to a sheet:

  1. In your dashboard, select the view you want to go to.

  2. Select Go to Sheet.

Hide sheets as you go

When you're working with a large number of worksheets to build dashboards, as you finish off a dashboard, you can hide the sheets that went into the dashboard. This can make your workbook easier to navigate.

To hide a dashboard's sheets, right-click (control-click on Mac) the dashboard's tab at the bottom of the workbook and select Hide All Sheets.

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