Apr 172012


Here’s something you are welcome to try – have a friend or colleague go to a Tableau Public URL that contains multiple tabs; then see how many people realize that there is in fact more than one view / dashboard available for him/her to explore.

I’ve created hundreds of dashboards with multiple tabs and the bottom line is most people will not notice the tabs.  This is why my dashboards have navigation links; i.e., arrows that people can click to move forward and back).

The problem is that crafting these forward / back buttons is very time-consuming; each one has to be “hand-chiseled” as it were.  Indeed, I spend as much time on the cosmetics / usability component of dashboard development as I do building the actual visualizations.

Compounding my frustration with this is that I really have little or no use for the tabs along the top, but the navigation buttons won’t work unless the tabs are visible.

See for yourself.  Go to http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/DataRevelations_CTO_CompEquity_2012/CTOCompensationandEquityBenchmarks2011 (this is a work in progress) and check out the navigation buttons.  I think they are reasonably intuitive and discoverable, but they won’t work unless the tabs (which are not readily discoverable) are visible.

So, I respectfully submit a feature request to the folks at my favorite software company – please make it easy for me to generate a clickable table of contents, and please make it easier to build forward / back buttons.


… this request is a distant second to my top Tableau feature request (let’s all chime in together): Dashboard-level filters.



[suffusion-the-author display='description']
 Posted by on April 17, 2012 1) General Discussions, Blog  Add comments

  7 Responses to “Minor Rant – Why is it so Difficult to Navigate in Tableau?”

Comments (7)
  1. My initial thought is the users need to be taught awareness of tabs, what I consider basic computer user interface awareness, but I understand not all users are that adept at using computers. So the need for this additional redundant, pixel taking navigation is based on the audience capabilities.

    What would be ideal is if the target of the action (dashboards/worksheets) could be data driven instead of “hand-chiseled”.

    One possible implementation would be a fourth Action type: Navigation

    That way the last image on http://kb.tableausoftware.com/articles/knowledgebase/creating-table-contents-navigate-other-dashboards could be created for navigating to dashboards/worksheets instead of URLs. (the step-by-step instructions are how to create a Filter action, and that last image is an example of a URL action, even the paragraph above the image refers to Filter actions)

    If this was possible, other interesting use cases become possible, such as based on field values, a select action could send the user to the applicable dashboard based on the metrics for deeper exploration. This would enhance the guided analytics capabilities of Tableau by enabling them to be more dynamic and data-driven.

    Sorry for taking your idea in a another direction, but I was trying to think of what would the user interface be for generating Next/Previous tabs, maybe they would need to be an additional dashboard object.

    Is this an “Idea” on the Tableau community site?

  2. Joe,

    A few thoughts:

    < >

    Do realize that the tabs themselves take up a fair amount of screen real estate. That said, the tabs have their place as they allow “random access” to a dashboard rather than having to navigate sequentially.

    But the having-to-display-the tabs requirement can be a big bugaboo, especially if a dashboard only comes to life when passed data from a different dashboard. I have several clients that need this capability and I don’t want consumers to stumble upon the dashboard by accident (which will happen when the tabs are exposed).

    I also find the positioning / sizing of the navigation buttons frustrating. This is one of the view places where I find Panopticon’s grid approach to dashboard creation easier than Tableau’s container approach.


  3. Yes, I see your point, and agree, I can see the use case for a strictly guided sequential navigation of views. Have your read http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/webforms/ the situations brought up in that book would apply to this discussion. With Tableau Server, and additional work, you can achieve a tab-less navigation in a web browser. 

    Dashboard layout in Tableau is a separate rant post unto itself :) In my opinion, it becomes much less frustrating with an understanding of the logic at play, and necessary order of operations to achieve the desired layout, but it is truly a hassle to get desired layout in many cases. I would not consider Panopticon better, only different, because it lacks many of the capabilities of Tableau’s approach to dashboard layout, such as layout containers (one of my favorite features of Tableau).

    Panopticon does have the SDK option so you can have more control over the user interface and achieve navigation you desire, with additional work.

    • Tableau dashboard layout is a serious impediment to its full adoption. It is a shame, because it is such a great program. But, trying to lay out detailed dashboards with data tables, sparklines, and highlighted icons is not worth the effort. I am talking about dashboards that look like Stephen Few designs, not the garish, and largely useless, over colored and over graphed “wowee” designs that are often proffered as dashboards. Again, it is a great program, but the issue with dashboard layout makes it more of a one-off charting program rather than a program that can truly be integrated into analytical functions. 

      • SF,

        I disagree in that you can, in fact, make some terrific Stephen Few-inspired dashboards. My gripe is that while it’s incredibly easy to explore the data, test theories, and build very good vizzes, it’s way harder than I would like it to be to create a commercial-quality dashboard.


  4. Joe & Steve,

    This is why I love the Tableau community. You guys are weighing in on some really critical aspects of the product and letting us know, in no uncertain terms, the struggles you deal with out in the trenches. This kind of feedback is what we live for.

    Steve – I want more Tableau users to see your suggestion because I know it has the potential to get some real ground swell (internal & external). Our Ideas page that Joe mentioned (http://community.tableausoftware.com/community/ideas) is generating a lot of conversations just like this and I want to make sure this gets in there. Have you submitted it yet? We’re taking the transparency path when it comes to product feedback and letting the entire community vote and respond to changes/solutions they want to see added to Tableau.

    P.S. Just think how much cooler our Iron Viz workbook could have been with this functionality. :)

  5. I cannot agree more with this post.  The amount of time I spend getting Tableau dashboards formatted/positioned correctly plus adding navigation capabilities is basically removing any benefit I may gain from being able to quickly visualize the data.  And the mess that’s created becomes impossible to hand over to another person to maintain.  If I were ever hit by a bus, I doubt that my replacement could figure out how to modify my dashboards because of all the shortcuts and workaround I need to add in to make Tableau behave the way I want it to.  I really urge Tableau to add some sort of dashboard navigation paradigm to T8 in a near future release.

Leave a Reply to swexler Cancel reply