Style up your bar charts

Small details can make a difference when designing good-looking dashboards. Some folks may take time picking the right font, others picking a great color palette, and so on.

The style of your bar charts can also make an interesting visual impact to your audiences. And here are two ideas on how you can easily achieve this:

1| The Tableau Prep style

For those that are using Tableau Prep for a while I am sure have noticed how sharp the bars are in the Profile pane:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.15.58 PM

That’s a very easy to reproduce on Tableau. The secret here is to place the Sub-Category pill in both Rows and Labels (and hide the header on Rows), along with adding Sales pill to Columns. Then you just need to set the second gray color from the Colors card and you are done:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.22.43 PM

To add a little extra data flavor you can duplicate your Sales pill, right-click and make it Discrete (it will become a blue pill) and this will add a nice header with the bar value:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.24.57 PM.png

To wrap up you can add a worksheet highlight hover action to… well… highlight the bar that has the mouse pointer on top of it:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.27.29 PM

2| Blending with background color

Another nice way to integrate a bar chart to a visualization is to blend it seamlessly with your background color. And there is a very easy way to achieve this.

This is what you get when you place Profit on Columns and Sub-Category on Sales in Tableau:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.31.53 PM

Let’s imagine that your visualization/dashboard has a very bold background color. This is how it is going to look:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.34.14 PM

Ok that is pretty ugly. Let’s then clean up the grid lines and make everything white in this chart (text and the bars):

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.35.53 PM

Ok that’s a bit better. But those bars are not really blended with the background. Go back to the Colors card and make the bars 20% transparent…

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.37.08 PM.png

… and…

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.38.33 PM

That seems a bit nicer right? If you want to take away all the Sub-Category labels and axis, just throw them in the Text card and set them to show on Highlight. Complement that with a highlight action and here you have:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.42.25 PM

Ok maybe 20% is too bright, you can always fine tune this. Here it is with 45% transparency on the bars:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.44.10 PM

You can also play by adding a slight darker border to the bars so they pop up a bit more when the highlight action happens:

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 9.45.54 PM

I think by now I believe you got the idea šŸ˜‰

I hope these two tips are helpful so we can give a bit of love (and design) to this super useful chart type.




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