I recently finished the “Creating Dashboards and Storytelling with Tableau” course on Coursera. The course was taught by adjunct faculty at the University of California Davis. Although it is the fourth course of five in the “Data Visualization with Tableau” specialization, it is only the third course that I have taken. I skipped the very basic first course and will concentrate next on finishing the capstone.
If you do take this course be prepared to put in a fair amount of work on weeks three and four when the dashboard and story project are respectively due. I put in at least five hours of effort on each individual assignment not including watching videos, reading materials and taking quizzes.
I found the storytelling course to be informative and worthwhile. Unlike a Udemy course on Tableau that wades right into the applied aspects of clicking and dragging items, Coursera courses offer more of an academic background on the subject matter.
The point of this course is to hammer home that stories provide context and meaning that can’t be matched by a list of facts. We’re informed that stories engage more of your brain than simply absorbing a list of facts.
We learn that you should always try to make your stories relatable to the viewer so that they personally connect or identify with some aspect of the story. You should find a specific story of a person who exemplifies the larger narrative rather than starting with a lot of general facts and figures.
Politicians employ this tactic all of the time. Instead of spouting off a list of facts about their particular issue, the politician will first paint a picture regarding Joe the small businessman or Jill the single mom. They’ll then discuss how legislation (or lack thereof) will affect their constituents particular situations; in the hope that the listener will relate to the individuals. This is an exercise in using the particular to illuminate the general.
Here are a few of the tips I learned in regard to telling stories with data:
- Use time based trends and consider a line or bar graph depending upon the data;
- Use rank ordering (e.g. use a bar graph to rank salespersons by sales);
- Use data comparisons where appropriate (e.g. polling data showing candidate support over a period of time);
- Use counter intuitive visualizations (e.g. most people are surprised to learn that the United States has the highest incarceration rate by far amongst OECD countries);
- Tell stories through relationships (e.g. use scatterplots to illustrate the relationship between sales and profits);
- Check your facts;
- Focus on a key statistic or intriguing piece of information;
- Make your story insightful; don’t leave the audience guessing on what you want them to take away form your presentation;
- Make your story relatable;
By all means check out my submission for the final project. I illustrated the relationship between discounted orders and profits to show that discounted orders are by far less profitable. This was accomplished by creating a set in Tableau to identify all discounted orders.
Until next class!