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Take Bar and Line Charts from Boring to Exciting!

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Bar and Line charts are popular and exist in most Tableau dashboards. Below I will review ways you can enhance each chart type.

Bar Charts

If you are a beginner user in Tableau, the most you may have done is flip your bar chart from horizontal to vertical using the button on your toolbar.

There are so many ways you can enhance your bar chart. There are multiple examples in Tableau Public that I encourage beginner users to favorite and/or download. They are listed below.

Robert Rouse shows you multiple ways you can visualize bar charts in his Tableau Public dashboard Bar Chart Menu here. The image below is from the dashboard.

He has multiple ways to enhance bar charts, some of which are listed below;

  • modify your labels / overlay labels

  • change your background color

  • use reference lines

  • use a dual axis with shapes

  • use colors to enhance variances

  • use highlighting

Andy Kriebel displays 18 Different Ways to Visualize Bar Charts in his Tableau Public dashboard here. The image below is from the dashboard.

Andy has some of the following visuals listed in his dashboard;

  • remove colors and just use an outline

  • do a rounded bar chart instead of a regular bar chart

  • create a progress bar using a dual axis

  • create a jittered bar chart

Jeffrey Shaffer shows you how to overlap your bars in his article here (image below is from the article). The dashboard link is here. This does require some calculated fields and a change in your data structure.

You can download all of the dashboards listed above to see how they are configured.

Line Charts

Continuous lines are important to show seasonality in a dashboard. They answer questions such as; How are your sales trending? Did you increase or decrease compared to last month?

In Ryan Sleeper's blog post here, he reviews the below three ways to enhance a line graph.

  • Use the available formatting - Tableau has a marker effect for line graphs in the Colors marks card menu. You can use this to enhance your chart.

  • Maximize data to ink ratio - meaning reduce your tick marks (or lines) in a graph to help reduce visual noise.

  • Use a dual axis - you can combine an area and a line chart to make the line chart stand out.

The image below is from his article.

Ryan Callihan (from this Interworks blog) displays an interesting way to do a dual axis lollipop chart, with out the circle! Just enter the percent label instead! The image below is from the article.

Did you know you can animate line graphs using Pages in Tableau? In this Datavis blog article here, Marc Reid shows you how you can animate your line graphs. Check out article to see the animation! The image below is from the link.

Have you ever wondered how to add a gradient to a line / area chart? Kizley Benedict, a guest author in the Flerlage Twins blog site, shows you how you can do this using a background image in Tableau. The article is here and the image below is from the article.

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