Andy Cotgreave: Expose Yourself with Tableau Public

This is a joint post from @vtucherov and @radioreelunch on Andy Cotgreave's session at Tableau Customer conference 2011.

"Designing for the web can be a freeing experience. Where in a corporate environment there may be limitations on how data gets presented, on the web formatting and color use choices are much more freeing."

Former Oxford University analyst and current Tableau consultant Andy Cotgreave took an hour to share some ideas about using Tableau Public as a tool for bloggers to increase visibility and traffic.

Think about usability first

"Size matters. I have 20 inches. Well, my monitors do. But the people who view my dashboards may be using their iPhones or iPads, tiny netbooks up to huge multiple monitors." Thinking of usability, it is a good practice to design to fixed sizes. "When you start doing that, you'll be able to free yourself to simplify the UI elements and build a dashboard which will be clean, usable and consistent however it's being viewed."

Usability tips from Andy:

  • Make sure the tooltip is better than the default.
  • Try and clear the UI of anything that will distract your user. You can get rid of Search from a short filter, for example.
  • If you're doing maps, there's no need to zoom or pan. So hide the zoom controls.
  • You should sit people down in front of your dashboard (wife, friend, brother). For example, people don't know how to un-click on a map. So add an annotation like "Click here to clear selection"

See the blog Data Revelations fir a definitive post on designing your viz.

Promote your viz

"News cycles are extremely short, so if you don't have your visualization up and ready within the first day, you've missed 90% of your potential audience." Sometimes you may need to compromise — "Timing trumps beauty. Maybe."

Do the journalist's work for them — they appreciate getting a viz. Just email them the embed stuff from the Share dialog. Also use social networking.

Brand your viz

Don't be afraid to brand your views! Especially if you build something which becomes hugely popular, give people who see it somewhere else it has been copied, mentioned, retweeted a way to get to your site. It's easy to build a sheet with personal information and embed it on your dashboard which will do this. Cotgreave demonstrated- and in three minutes built a worksheet from an Excel worksheet which contained all the personal information he wanted- and this was quick, easily and easily reusable.

All in all, Andy boiled it down to three simple elements: get good data, build a killer viz, and don't be afraid to promote it.

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