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An Introduction to Tableau Dashboard ActionsPreview
Filter, Highlight, Go to URL, Go to Sheet, and Change Set Values
Bring your Tableau dashboards to life by coding user experiences that occur when analysts interact with worksheets. You’ll see how to create an intuitive navigation, use Tableau’s new set actions, and more.
Hi, this is Ryan with Playfair Data TV. And in this video, I’m going to give you an introduction to all the different types of dashboard actions that you can do in Tableau, including the brand new set dashboard action that came with Tableau version 2018.3. To help illustrate, we’re going to be using this dashboard that I often build in my Tableau training classes. It’s just looking at the percent of sales across our four different regions in the Sample Superstore dataset.
Just to throw out the first use case that we’ll use to show you how to use dashboard actions, let’s say that this stacked bar chart at the top is going to act as a navigation. When we click on any of the four regions, we’re going to have it filter the other three worksheets on the view. To add a dashboard action, click Dashboard in the top navigation and click Actions. This will open up a dialog box. And the first button that you need to click on is Add Action.
Notice there are five different types of dashboard actions. If we choose Filter, what this one would do is, when I click on the stacked bar chart, it would filter the other three sheets. If I chose Highlight, clicking on the stacked bar chart would just highlight the same dimension members that are being clicked on on the other three sheets. If I chose URL, better known as a URL dashboard action, as you can see there, it says it will go to a URL.
You can also now, as of version 2018.3, set up a dashboard action that takes you to a different sheet. You could do this in the past, but it required a couple of extra clicks. If you’re interested in seeing more about that, do a search on Playfair Data TV for how to add a button to a Tableau dashboard. And then the new one that everybody’s really excited about, the fifth one is called Change Set Values.
But again, just starting out with this simple use case, let’s choose Filter. First thing you have to do is give your dashboard action a name. So I’ll call this my Region Navigation. If you’re new to dashboard actions, this interface is new, it might look a little bit overwhelming, but it’s very intuitive. I’ll just kind of talk you through– and this is really how I setup dashboard actions. I just kind of talk out loud on what I’m trying to achieve.
The first thing you have to choose is called the Source Sheet. This is the origin of the action. Just thinking through our use case, we’re saying if you click on the stacked bar chart, we want it to filter the other three. So the origin, or the source of the action, is the stacked bar chart. So I’m going to deselect everything except for Stacked Bar Chart.
The next thing you have to choose is when do you want that action to execute? The default is Menu. I’m going to show you that one last, but what this one does is it will show you your dashboard action in a tooltip and it will require an extra click to get it to work. The one that I usually use is called Select. This is synonymous with click. And again, we’re saying, in our use case, if you click on the stacked bar chart– so in other words, we want it to run when you select the stacked bar chart. So that’s what I’ve selected.
And the last way you can execute a dashboard action is on Hover. This would run this dashboard action, even if we didn’t click on the dimension member. We would simply need to hover over that dimension member in order for it to filter the other three sheets. The next thing you have to choose is the target of the action. In our use case, we’re saying if you clicked the stacked bar chart, I want you to filter the other three sheets. So those other three sheets are the target of this action. I’m going to deselect only the source sheet, so I’m going to deselect Stacked Bar, leaving the target the remaining three sheets.
And the last thing we have to decide, at least at this time– you can look at this later, but this will allow you to choose the granularity of this dashboard action. But for this first, simple example, the last thing we’re going to worry about is what do you want to happen when you clear out the selection. The default says Show All Values. And that’s typically my preference. This means if I clear the selection, which you can do by clicking the Escape key, it’s just going to bring everything back, as if nothing happened.
The other two options are Exclude All Values. What this would do is you’d see the other three sheets would be blank until I made another selection. It wouldn’t show any values until I clicked on that source sheet again. And then the last option is Leave the Filter. This would leave your last selection in place until you made another selection. But I’ll leave the default on this one. And that’s it for now. So I’ll click OK, click OK again.
And you didn’t see anything change in the dashboard yet, but we’ve just coded this user experience. Now, if I click on the West region, the other three sheets get filtered down to the West region. That user experience wasn’t defined before. It would not have worked like that until I added this dashboard action. What I particularly like about select dashboard actions is you can do a multi-select to quickly create comparisons.
So if I hold down the control key on a PC and click the South region, as well as the West region– hands are off the keyboard– I’ve quickly created this comparison, West versus South. And to clear out the selection, which you can do by clicking the Escape key, notice we coded it to say Show All Values, or bring everything back as if nothing happened. So that’s what we see here when we clear the selection.
You can also edit a dashboard action. You can get back to your dashboard action at any time by clicking Dashboard in the top navigation and clicking Actions. And there’s the action that we’ve coded so far, Region Navigation. So just to quickly show you the other user experiences, I’ll click on that Region Navigation dashboard action and click Edit. And instead of having this run on Select, I’ll have this run on Hover. And I’ll click OK. Click OK again.
Now, just by hovering over the dimension members, it’s filtering those other three worksheets. I’m not clicking. I’m just slowly moving my mouse across this stacked bar chart, and it’s filtering the other three worksheets. What I really like about the hover dashboard actions is I find that your end user will almost stumble into the interactivity. You have to remember that people have been using tools like Excel for three decades. They don’t realize that, in tools like Tableau, hovering or clicking on things might cause some type of filtering or some interactivity. They don’t even know that that interactivity is available to them.
But when you set up a dashboard action to run on Hover, they almost kind of stumble into it. They might be looking at an insight or trying to take a closer look and be thinking about something on the dashboard, and they’ll hover over it, realize something changes, and realize, oh, this is interactive. Now, I can hover over and look for what’s relevant to me.
Couple drawbacks, though, on a hover dashboard action. One, they don’t work on a mobile device. You can’t hover over dimension members on an iPhone, for example. Also, you can’t do a multi-select. You can’t hover over two things at once to create those comparisons. So my go-to is Select, but Hover is a nice way to introduce interactivity to your end users.
And the last option– I’m going to edit this one one more time– is to have this run on Menu. If I click Menu and click OK. You’ll see the dashboard action appear on the tooltip. So if I click on West, you’ll see that Region Navigation dashboard action appear within the tooltip. And if I click it again, then it filters. So it requires one extra click. For that reason, I don’t love the user experience as much.
If you’re going to do this, what I recommend is you set up the dashboard action to be named some sort of call to action, because that’s literally what’s going to show up in the tooltip. So instead of calling this Region Navigation, I’ll edit this and say, Click here to filter by region. And if I click OK, click OK again, and let’s do the South this time. When I click South, now you see it says Click here to filter by region. It’s much more intuitive. The end user has a better expectation of what’s going to happen when they click on that specific dimension member.
The one time that I will use Menu dashboard actions is if I’m wanting to navigate my end user somewhere else. But to show you that, I probably prefer to do a URL dashboard action. So I’m going to go add a second dashboard action. Click Add Action. And I’ll do Go to URL. And again, I’ll give this a call to action. I’ll say Click here to visit Playfair Data TV. And I’ll just leave it as all the sheets selected for now. We’ll do a Menu dashboard action. And I’ll type in the URL. Click OK. Click OK. And let’s try to click the East region.
Notice we’ve now got two dashboard actions coded here. The first one will filter the three sheets based on the region I click. The second one is a URL dashboard action with a good call to action. I know what’s going to happen if I click here. It’s going to open up Playfair Data TV on my computer.
But the reason I would use that in a real life scenario is to provide some navigation between workbooks that might live on Tableau Public, Tableau Online, or Tableau Server. I can have a high level dashboard on one view, and say click here to go analyze a deeper level or some other aspect of the business. That’s how I might use that.
Let’s go back and add another action, to show you how these work. Highlight acts just like Filter. So I’m actually going to skip on that one for now. But if I were to click the East region, it would highlight the region. Not filter to it, but it would just make it stand out on the view. Go To Sheet is a way to navigate between individual sheets. Again, previously, you had to kind of do some extra steps in order to get this to work. Now, you can just set this up to say if you click on this particular sheet, I want you to go to this other worksheet within a single workbook.
But I’m going to close this by introducing the newest Tableau dashboard action, which is called Change Set Values. This is going to unlock a lot of interesting user experiences. People are already doing a lot in the community with this, getting very creative. But Tableau is just getting better and better about providing capability to do advanced user experience, making it almost more like a web-like user experience, versus a traditional BI tool. To use set values, you do have to have a set in your data set.
So I’m going to escape out of this for a moment. In fact, let me go ahead and delete both of these for a moment. And we’ll just get a clean start setting up our first set action. I’m going to click OK. I’m going to go to any sheet and I’m going to set up a set that’s based on the Region dimension. I’m going to right click on Region, hover over create, and click Set. And for now, I’ll just go ahead and use all four dimension members. And I’ll also give this a name. Call this my Region Set. And I’m going to click OK. You’ll see a new set appear. I also want this set to be represented on all three of my target sheets.
So just to show you a very basic example on what this is doing behind the scenes, I’m just going to go to each of my three target sheets and add the Region Set. So I’ll put that on the Columns Shelf. Notice all four, by default so far, all four dimension members or all four regions in this case are in the set. I’ll do the same thing on my line graph. I’ll put Region Set on the Rows Shelf. So this’ll break it up vertically whether you’re in the set or out of the set. And I’ll do the same thing on my sorted bar chart.
So now that set is represented on all three of my target sheets. And if I go back to my Training dashboard and add an action that will change the set values. We’ll keep the same source sheet, so our stacked bar chart. And we’ll say we’ll have this run on click or Select. That way, we can do a multi-select, create a comparison. You first of all have to choose the target set. This is why you need at least one set in your data source in order for this one to work. I’m only connecting to one data set at the moment, so this is an easy decision. Sample – Superstore. And then the set is Region Set.
And notice these options. If you clear the selection you can add everything back. Again, it just kind of goes back as if nothing had happened. You can retain the set values or you can remove all the set values. I’m just getting started with this myself. It’s a brand new feature, so I’m just kind of in the process of wrapping my head around it. But so far, I like the default, just kind of going back as if nothing happened. So we’ll leave that there for now. And I’ll click OK. Click OK again.
And now, let’s see what happens if I click on the West region. If I click West, notice how my target sheets got broken up. First of all, my map is broken up horizontally. Remember we added that Region Set to the Columns Shelf. Sets are Boolean, meaning there’s only two outcomes. You’re either in the set or you’re not. So when we clicked West, that dimension member over wrote the set that we had set up. We had set up that Region Set to contain all four of the regions, but with this newly created dashboard action, we just over wrote those settings. We said that the only dimension member in the Region Set is West.
So it broke up the states in the West region on the left. Those are in the set. The states that are not in the set are broken up on the right side. Down here on my line graph, we did that breaking up vertically. So we see a line graph for the West region on top, three lines for the regions that are not in that set on the bottom, and the same orientation on the sorted bar chart. All the states in the West region are listed first. If I scroll down, we’ll see everybody that is out of the set.
So this is just another really handy way to make comparisons that are going to help us do our analyses. Because I set up this dashboard action to run on Select, I can setup a multi-select. I can hold Control and click South. And notice now both the West and the South regions have been added to the set, so we see those on the left. We also get a comparison right away here on this top row. We’re now comparing just the West and South regions. But the advantage with the set action versus the filter action is we still have that context for the dimension members that are out of the set.
Same thing on my sorted bar chart. The comparison on the first row, or those that are in the set, are South versus West. And if I scroll down, we’ll see the context of the other remaining dimension members that are not in that set. But this will unlock a lot of flexibility with the user experience. It will help us do our analyses, because we’ll be able to add even more context even faster. But for now, I just wanted to give you an introduction on all the different types of dashboard actions and you’ll see some creative applications of these in the future at Playfair Data TV.
This has been Ryan with Playfair Data TV – thanks for watching!
Related video: Making Your First Tableau Dashboard (Part 1)
Related blog post: 3 Creative Ways to Use Tableau Dashboard Actions
Related chapter: Practical Tableau – Chapter 56 – Three Creative Ways to Use Dashboard Actions
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- Making Your First Tableau Dashboard (Part 2)
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- Tableau Dashboard Element: The Global Filters Tab
- Tableau Dashboard Element: The Parameterized Scatter Plot
- How to Add a Button to a Tableau Dashboard
- How to Add a Filter in Use Alert to a Tableau Dashboard