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The hardest part about making dashboards for Tableau Public

Tableau Public is great. It’s a free option for data visualization developers to publish their Tableau work for the world to see. No matter if you’re a fresh, new developer or a seasoned expert.

Publishing to Tableau Public is great because it does a few things:

  • Let’s you work on you Tableau skills at home without spending $$$ on licenses
  • Gives you a community to participate in
  • Is a great way to help share and learn best practices and tips & tricks
  • Helps build a portfolio for potential employers or customers

I publish to Tableau Public every so often. Oftentimes I’ll share my works to LinkedIn and/or Reddit to get feedback and hopefully give new insights to viewers across the world. Doing this has often reminded me of a very important fact.

Feedback is a critical part of development.

This doesn’t just apply to Tableau Public. It applies to nearly all work. You need your alone time to brainstorm, develop, tinker, and fail. But you also need some sort of collaboration and feedback in order to make the best version of your product.

That’s why the lack of feedback while developing for Tableau Public can make development difficult. In an ideal development world, you get a few rounds of feedback. Without these iterations of feedback, development can be like a brutal empathy exercise. Trying to figure out what the opinions and thoughts of the end users without actually ever talking to them! Let’s break this down.

Challenges of feedback

  1. Knowing how often and when to get feedback.
  2. Finding experienced, truthful and knowledgable people to provide feedback.
  3. Understanding which recommendations to ignore and which ones to take action on. Experience helps with this one, but so does finding a great person for point 2 above.

Some ideas on how to establish a feedback loop for Tableau Public projects

Getting some sort of feedback loop can bring your dashboards to the next level. A great part of Tableau Public is that you can always open a dashboard you’ve published, edit it, and republish with the changes. I do this all the time when I want to make changes or test how something renders on different devices (**cough** **cough** fonts). So how can we establish a feedback loop so we can take advantage of this editing capability?

  • Get your spouse/roommate/friend/coworker to review your dashboard. Find out what they found hard to understand, if it was easy to use, and what they liked/didn’t like about the visual aspect. In person is great, at lunch is great, over video chat is great, any time and place it great! Just make sure your dashboard is configured for mobile if you’re doing it on the go.
  • Have regular chats with a mentor. If that mentor has Tableau experience, that’s awesome. But they don’t have to! A thoughtful mentor can give valuable insights regardless of their background. If you’re looking for a mentor, reach out to me. If you’re looking to mentor someone, also reach out to me (we all need mentors)!
  • Post your work publicly and ask for critique. This one you have to be careful with! Random internet strangers can be hit or miss. Some will type out “criticisms” without much thought or understanding. These should be ignored. But smaller communities and communities of respected colleagues, feedback can be invaluable. Think of places like LinkedIn, Meetups, small Facebook groups, etc.

Here’s my ideal feedback cycle (when to get feedback)

The first round of feedback is before you even start. It’s talking and asking questions with your target audience in order to nail down the KPIs, metrics, or business questions you want to answer with your work.

The second round is ideally after you’ve completed several mockups/potential solutions. Your target audience tells you what they like, what isn’t clear enough or useful, and you can gauge whether the audience is actually seeking what they’re asking for. (or really something tangentially related instead).

The third round would be after building the narrowed-down solution from the second round of feedback. In short, this is a post-beta version feedback round.

In the final round, this is where the least amount of changes would be requested and honored. At this point things should be pretty close to the desired outcome. Small changes might be done, but nothing drastic. If drastic changes are requested, then this is truly a new project and should be treated as one. That’s when you start back at round 1!


That’s it, thanks for reading!

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