Let’s talk about text!

Let’s talk about text!

First. I did not come up with the title. You know who must have! 😂

It’s 4th of July. After a busy weekend of prepping and getting ready for my parents to arrive from India this week (I am going to see them after 2 years) I decided to keep it quiet and write a blog post. My once in a blue moon blog post, I should say. Of course, Adam is going to be excited of my guest appearance on my own blog! 😂

So here goes. My Tableau Public profile features 115 visualizations that have all been created in a little over a year. If you download my workbooks, you’ll see that none of my 115 visualizations actually contain ANYTHING fancy or super complicated.

Over time my style of visualizing has definitely evolved but the use of simple elements to enhance the visualization hasn’t changed. In this blog post, I will go through a few text box tricks that I use in almost all of my vizzes created in Tableau that everyone has seemed to like.

I am a huge fan of floating elements in Tableau. The reasons being:

  • You get to precisely control pixels
  • You get to overlap elements to create a visual appearance
  • You get to choose the order of elements (just like PowerPoint) meaning decide which element goes back and front

I like using text boxes in Tableau so you don’t have to worry about color formatting etc. outside of the tool.

Overlapping text boxes

In this example, the 1st and 2nd text boxes are shaded gray. The 3rd text box is placed over them. The goal is to make the 3rd text box stand on top of the 2 below them. Because text boxes are transparent, the 3rd text box in this case doesn’t hide the 1st and 2nd. You can format the color of the 3rd text box the same as your dashboard to mitigate this. This will make it look like your text is in brackets. Nice soft touch to enhance the text!

Creating an elbow

This is another simple method to show or annotate on your viz. In this case 1st and 2nd text boxes are 1 px in height and width respectively and the 3rd text box is shaded the same color as the dashboard color and placed over the 2nd text box. The 3rd text box can be used to write/annotate giving the annotation a clean appearance.

Creating a title with lines

Similar concept here as creating an elbow. The 1st text box is a 1 px tall text box with the 2nd text box cutting through the lines because it is shaded the same color as the dashboard. You can even achieve this look on a tiled dashboard by using hyphens in the text box before and after the text to create a line break

My UNICEF viz had a similar technique but with a dashed text box (1st) and 2nd shaded similar to the dashboard color over it.

Opacity control

Reduce the opacity to about 70% or so and place the text box over an image, so it that the image shows through and you can still write something on the text box.

Empty text boxes

This has a lot of good uses.

If using device designer, use an empty text box on only the phone view on charts where you want to hide tooltips. This means that the desktop view will have tooltips available but your phone view will not have those annoying tooltip popups when the user scrolls through the dashboard.

Use it also over a map if you don’t already turn off the panning and zooming options from the map menu. The panning and zooming on a map is especially annoying on phone while scrolling through the dashboard.

Use it over text boxes or other areas of the dashboard that require the user to go to an external data source. I walk through this tip in this Think Data Thursday session that I did a year ago. Take a look here.

In this example, the text ‘The Data Duo’ is a text box, you can’t set URL on a text box. So I placed an empty transparent image over the text to be able to set the URL to take the users to my blog. You can easily take a screen shot of an empty space on word document or PowerPoint and make it transparent and save it as an image locally on your computer.

Text boxes in a container

Use 1 px wide text boxes with a shading to section the data in a horizontal container (floating or tiled)

Create a text effect

Place a same shading as the dashboard text box over large texts on your dashboard to create a nice visual appearance on titles. Big text etc.

Name the text

You know the annoying list of texts that you see on the side panel in the layout tab on a dashboard and you are completely lost which text box is where? I have been through this, a lot. This:

Curtis Harris, 2016 Iron Viz champion showed me a nice little trick to name the text box as whatever you had like. But make sure the color of the font is the same as the dashboard color, so it shows up in the side panel but not on the text box. Nifty huh? Thanks Curtis.

You obviously don’t have to use it all. But I hope this blog post helps those who are trying to find new ways to simplify things in Tableau. I’ll keep updating this post as and when I come up with new things to share. Happy 4th, my friends!

Thanks for reading. As always, let me know if you have questions!

3 thoughts on “Let’s talk about text!

  1. Nurul

    These are very useful tricks on designing dashboard! Thanks for writing it!

  2. Pooja Gandhi

    That’s awesome to hear. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. suman kumar

    Thanks Puja..!!! #Thedataduo
    I just started so got something new..!!!

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