How to Create your First Tableau Dashboard — 6 Easy Steps

Eric Sales De Andrade
5 min readMay 12, 2018


Have you ever looked at Excel sheets and thought “Oh my God! It all looks the same and its so hard to see what I need”, well the solution is here…. in the form of Data Visualisation Tools like Tableau, Power BI, Looker, Plotly etc.

Working with Excel has always been the job or domain of data analysts and traditionally its been hard to do anything with Excel without having to write complex formulae or macros. Data Exploration is now very easy and with the ability to convert boring spreadsheets into beautiful, colourful and interactive dashboards, these tools have garnered strong reputation in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence.

One tool the we will strongly focus on in this article is Tableau. Why? Because its one of the easiest to use, fastest to set up and has a good pricing model while being amongst the top in the market. So why not….. ?

Tableau has several products based on your requirements like Tableau Public, Tableau Server, Tableau Desktop etc. In this tutorial we will use the free version (Tableau Public) and publish our dashboard on the web which is visible to everyone. Should you require a private dashboard to be accessed with a username and password you need to purchase a Tableau Desktop, Server subscription and publish your dashboards from Tableau Desktop to Tableau Server. More about this later.

Lets get started straightaway with a sample dataset.

The dataset we will use contains 2 years of sales data found on the IBM Watson Analytics Website and can be downloaded below.

It contains sales data including country, order method, product type, year, quarter, quantity, revenue etc. and is a great and easy to understand beginner dataset. Complete details of the columns can be found in the above link. Lets follow the below steps:

Step 1 — Download and install Tableau Public

You need to register for an account on Tableau Public in order to download the application. It should not take too long (around 400MB for the Mac version).

Step 2 — Fire up Tableau Public and connect your data

Now the data is in CSV (comma separated value format) which falls under the “Text file” data source in Tableau.

Connect your data

After you click on “Text file” you will see a dialog box open up which you can select the CSV file you just downloaded from the Watson Analytics Website.

Step 3— Quickly visualise your data

Visualise your data

Make sure your data is imported correctly, visible, and what you expect. You can also apply filters to the dataset from here (top right).

Step 4— Create a Worksheet

A worksheet is essentially a single visualisation. Multiple worksheets can be combined together to form a Dashboard. Below I have created a few worksheets as an example. Click on image of a worksheet with ‘+’ sign right at the bottom right to create your first one.

Revenue Map Worksheet

Creating worksheets is fairly simple and doesn’t have to be complicated. It involves planning what you want to see, then dragging and dropping fields into the workspace.

Dimensions: These are discrete fields. Examples include country name, Product Type, Order type etc.

Measures: These are aggregate or continuous fields. Examples include revenue, quantity etc.

If Tableau doesn’t automatically detect the ‘Year’ as a date field you can manually set it by clicking on the little symbol to the left of the field and selecting ‘Date’.

You can use the Marks to put Labels, Colours, Details, Tooltips (what appears when you hover) etc. which is very powerful. Below are a few more worksheets created for your reference.

Retailer Type Heatmap
Product Line Pie Chart
Top 3 Product types Line Graph

Please note I have used a calculation called ‘Product Rank’ to select the top 3 products. You can create calculations by clicking ‘Analysis’ on the top, selecting Calculation and and entering the calculation as below:

Product Rank calculation

After that you can set it as filter by dragging it into the ‘Filters’ field — just above the Marks field.

Step 5— Combine your Worksheets into a Dashboard

Finally, its time to combine all of your hard work into one place. Drag the individual worksheets into the Dashboard after creating a Dashboard by clicking on the Dashboard with ‘+’ sign at the bottom. Resize, tweak and modify as much as you like. Also choose the Size correctly (left side) — Laptop Browser, Desktop browser etc.

Sales Statistics Dashboard

Step 6— Publish your Dashboard

Finally its time to make the world aware of the work you’ve been doing. Click on File and Save to Tableau Public, as option. Tableau will ask you to sign in and name your dashboard.

Publishing your Dashboard

Yay!! You’ve now created your first Tableau Dashboard and begun your journey towards bringing data to life and sharing your work on the Web. You can see your dashboard online in your Tableau Public Account (as below)

Your Dashboard on Tableau Public (the web)!/vizhome/SalesStatistics-WatsonAnalytics/SalesDashboard

The most powerful part

Interactive filters are the most powerful part of Tableau. Users can filter your Dashboard based on clicking any of the other fields in the dashboard (this has to be set up before publishing the dashboard). This interactive nature is arguably one of the most powerful features of this Business Intelligence Tool.

Conclusion and Next Steps

You have now learnt how to bring boring excel files to life using a Data Visualisation tool e.g. Tableau. It doesn’t stop here, if you subscribe to Tableau Server you can also connect to databases like AWS Redshift, Google Big Query etc. and set refresh schedules to update your dashboard daily. Dashboards would be published on Tableau Server or can be embedded into your own website or application. Data Visualisation has never been easier!

Please comment below about your experiences using Tableau or other Business Intelligence tools.