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To Gauge or Not to Gauge

Whenever I teach one of my Tableau classes, a question I am always asked is how can you make a Gauge Chart in Tableau? The quick answer is that it is not worth the effort to build one. I will review three use cases in my blog below, explain the reasons why you shouldn't use them, and provide alternatives.

The disadvantages are as follows;

  • Lots of calculations are used to create one

  • They slow down the Dashboard performance

  • Take up a lot of space for one metric

As a developer you need to ask, what do you need a Gauge Chart for? What is your use case?

Use Case #1 - Project Management

Use Case: I am a project manager and I want to see the status of different initiatives for a project. I want to see if they are in an Red Amber or Green Status.

Disadvantage: 5-10 % of the population is Red Amber Green color blind (according to Wikipedia) so this is not a good use case.

Alternative: Some users use a Donut Chart to display Project Status percentages. Donuts, like Pie Charts, can be hard to visually identify percentages. Can you tell the difference between a 23% slice versus a 25% slice? You would have to use labels.

(The charts displayed are from my World of Charts Tableau Public Dashboard here.)

Others developers use a Bar Chart or a Progress Bar for Project Status.

Example: Here is an excellent example of a Project Management Dashboard in Tableau Public by Pradeep Kumar > LINK

Use Case #2 - Survey Data

Use Case: I hosted a Survey and I want to display the percentage of responses for certain metrics. I want to use a Gauge for each survey question. Ken Flerlage suggested using a half of a Donut Chart for Percent Gauges in his blog article here as an example.

Disadvantages: A gauge per response will take up a lot of visual "real estate" on a dashboard.

Alternative: I like to use a Diverging Stacked Bar chart for Survey results. You can display the number of positive and negative responses as well as a display the average all in one chart.

Example: Andy Kriebel has a great example in his Visual Vocabulary Dashboard here in Tableau Public. Click on the Deviation tab to view the chart. It looks very similar to the picture shown above.

Use Case #3 - Executive Dashboard

Use Case: I want to compare the performance of one measure compared to other measures on a dashboard. I want to compare budget sales compared to actual sales.

Disadvantages: For this example you would have to display multiple Gauge Charts which will once again take up too much space on a dashboard.

Alternative: I would recommend using a Bullet Graph for this use case. You can quickly view both measures and how they compare in this graph type. Below is a Bullet Graph I used for Profit versus Sales by Region.

Example: Here is an example of how you can differentiate Bullet Graphs by Jeffrey Shaffer.

Even after you explain to your client that they shouldn't use a Gauge Chart as explained above, Luke Stanke explains how to create one in this tutorial by pH Data > LINK .

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