Best of Tableau Web: September 2021

A highlight of data visualization tips, tricks and inspiration produced by the Tableau community.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about data visualization, you know I’m passionate about color usage. If used incorrectly, preattentive attributes can be as much a blessing as a curse. There’s the issue of overwhelming the user with competing focal points, as well as the issue of accessibility and color vision deficiency. Ever since I unknowingly developed a traditional red-yellow-green scorecard for someone with a common color vision deficiency I am especially interested in accessibility. Talk about a learning opportunity!

When many of us choose color palettes, we just tinker until the design looks nice. But as Micaela Domingues of Biztory explains, we should consider the science behind color when designing visualizations. Her post gives a quick overview of color fundamentals, from hue-saturation value and red-green-blue values to the “mother of all color tools in the design world”—the color wheel.

In addition to recommendations for choosing color palettes wisely, Micaela also touches on the international meanings of color. Unless we design for international audiences, it’s easy to overlook how different colors are perceived in different countries around the world. 

If you’re talking about politics in the United States, for example, red is the Republican party and Blue is the Democratic party. In the U.S., Democrats are generally seen as progressives and Republicans are conservative, but that’s flipped in the United Kingdom! There, the center-left progressive Labour party is red and the Conservative Party, or Tories, is blue. In the U.S., red is seen as a negative alerting color, while in Chinese cultures red can symbolize good luck. 

For more on this subject, I highly recommend the blog Micaela mentions, Information is beautiful, or Colors and their meaning around the world from for some general guidelines on improving accessibility, including but not limited to, the use of color.

 “Colours in Culture” circle with spokes with various color blocks to show relationship between cultures/regions and emotional states
Micaela’s post features this colorful viz by David McCandless that illustrates how colors are interpreted differently across cultures and regions. [David McCandless/Information is beautiful]

When it comes to accessibility and color, Ockham's Razor holds true: that is, the simplest answer is generally the correct one. More simply put, less color is more. 

Ideally, we want our visualizations to convey information while requiring the least effort possible of the viewer, and accessibility is a major part of that goal. Henry Mak, from The Data School UK, recently shared a post on how to make your dashboards more accessible. In it, Henry touches on key best practices for accessible dashboard design. Of note here are his recommendations related to color usage: limit your use of different colors (demonstrated in the following images), avoid color confusion, and use adequate whitespace. 

Don't do this (left); Do this (right): 


Side-by-side dot plots, on the left with unique colors for all 10+ sub-categories, on the right with a simple true/false two-color key
As this side-by-side comparison clearly demonstrates, too many colors makes it difficult to identify a specific sub-category at a glance. [Henry Mark/The Data School UK]

With that, let’s dive into this month’s Best of the Tableau Web and see just what the #DataFam was up to in September! For updates throughout the month, follow me Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out the list of blogs that Andy Cotgreave and I follow for Best of the Tableau Web. If you don’t see yours on the list, we invite you to add it here.


Formatting, Design, Storytelling




Tips and Tricks


View last month’s Viz of the Day on Tableau Public gallery.