Historically, creating Sankey charts in Tableau has been a time-consuming process, often requiring the use of complex templates. However, the team at Tableau Public has introduced a game-changing functionality that allows us to create Sankey charts effortlessly. This feature, currently in beta and available for a limited time (like the McRib of data visualizations), enables us to author and publish Sankey charts directly to our Tableau Public profiles.
In this blog post, I’ll briefly walk you through the process of creating one using Tableau Public.
What is a Sankey Chart?
Before we delve into the specifics of this new Tableau Public feature, let’s take a moment to understand what a Sankey chart is and why it’s such a powerful visualization tool. A Sankey chart is a flow diagram that illustrates the movement of data, be it goods, energy, or even money. With a Sankey chart, you can effortlessly compare different data points and identify patterns that might remain hidden in traditional charts or tables.
Testing Out the New Feature
Assuming you already have a Tableau Public profile (and if you don’t, I highly recommend creating one—it’s an incredible platform for sharing your data visualizations with the world). You’ll need to create a visualization directly from your Tableau Public page.
Once you’ve created your visualization, navigate to the “Connect to Data” section. As we’re uploading data from our computer, select the “Upload from Computer” option. Choose the dataset you want to work with—I’ll be using the “Sample Superstore” dataset for this example. After confirming that your data has been successfully imported, select the “Sankey” chart type.
Now, here’s where the magic happens. You’ll notice a “Level” and “Link” section that appears. To define the flow in the Sankey chart, let’s select a dimension like “Segment” and drag it into the “Level” area. Next, grab another dimension—I’ll choose “Region”—and place it in the “Level” area as well. Finally, to quantify the flow, let’s choose a measure like “Sales” and place it in the “Link” area.
Voila! With just a few clicks, we’ve created a Sankey chart. Impressive, isn’t it? You’ll notice the flow between the segments and regions instantly come to life. But we’re not done yet—let’s keep the party going by adding another level.
For the sake of experimentation, let’s grab a dimension like “Ship Status” and drop it into the visualization. Now we have an additional sub-level in our Sankey chart. To avoid overcrowding, we can uncheck the “Allow Labels to Overlap” option, ensuring our chart remains clean and legible.
Keep Innovating for The Analytics Core Audience
Tableau Public’s decision to incorporate this feature highlights their commitment to democratizing data visualization. While the addition of features like Sankey charts to Tableau Public is fantastic, it’s essential that the overlords at Salesforce remember Tableau’s core audience—the general analytics users who are generally decoupled from Salesforce usage. Let’s keep hoping for bigger and better things to come with the tool. This beta signals that they’re heading in the right direction.
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Anthony B Smoak
(Note: The mentioned feature and availability were accurate as of the blog post’s publication date, but please refer to the Tableau Public documentation for the latest updates and information.)