Becoming a Tableau Desktop Specialist – Part 9: Create and modify a dashboard

Nov 8, 2019

Christine Rietmann

Welcome back, everyone — Create and Modify a Dashboard is the last blog post of my ‘Becoming a Tableau Desktop Specialist Series’.

New to this series? Then check out the further posts to learn more about it:

Create a dashboard layout

One important thing you should keep in mind is how most people will perceive information on your dashboard. Leaving preattentive attributes aside, people will focus on the top left corner first and continue reading in zigzag motions. This is why most authors recommend putting the most important things at the top left of your visualization. It’s also important if one chart bases on another chart. In this case, you should place the second chart behind the other one according to the visual order.

Check out for example this example from Klaus, which has a very clear visual order and is easy to follow through the entire analysis.

Visual order on dashboards

Last week we talked a little bit about preattentive attributes. So, the way we present one chart (e.g. size, color, position) on our dashboard gives the audience a hint of how important the chart is.

Elements of our dashboard

On the bottom of our interface, we have three different symbols. When we click on the first one we add a new sheet, using the second one will give us a new dashboard and the last one allows us to add a story.

Add a dashboard

So, let’s add a dashboard and see which options we have. On the bottom left side, you can see different dashboard objects.


The dashboard can (of course) include sheets and additionally objects like texts, imagines, websites, buttons, blank objects, and extensions. We can drag and drop all these different options onto the dashboard.

To structure the dashboard we can use containers (‘horizontal’ or ‘vertical’) instead of dragging and dropping sheets and objects directly into the view

I think most objects are self-explanatory. So, I won’t explain how they work in detail. More complex are extensions if you want to learn more about it look here


It took me some time to understand how containers work. Nevertheless, I think containers generate a big benefit.

In Tableau, we distinguish between vertical and horizontal containers. In a container, you can group different elements of your dashboard. Horizontal containers will place the elements next to each other. Vertical containers will place an element below/above the other.

Therefore you first drag in one of the containers and then you drag in, for example, the sheets.

Horizontal Container
Vertical Container

If you are moving a container all the elements within will stay in place (in the container) and you move all elements of one container together.

To move the container or to use the format options of the container you have to select a sheet and a gray border with a block in the middle of the top line (don’t know how to call that) will appear.

Selected sheet

To select the container you have to double-click this block. The color will change from gray to blue.

Selected container

You also have the opportunity to place containers within containers. At the bottom of the layout pane, you can look up and edit your hierarchy.

Item hierarchy

Another very useful function of containers distributes your elements equally.

Distribution of containers

Tiled vs. float

For every element of our dashboard and every container, we can determine whether our element should be ’tiled’ or ‘float’.

Tiled objects are arranged in a single layer grid that adjust in size based on the total dashboard size and the objects around it. Floating objects can be layered on top of other objects and can have a fixed size and position.
Tiled vs. Floating


A great tip to save time is to sketch your dashboard first and then build a structure with containers. You can use blank sheets as a placeholder.

Colored blank sheets as a placeholder


Dashboard size

Under ‘Dashboard’ you can define your dashboard size. While automatic sizing adjusts your dashboard to the available screen size, it is most recommended to fixe the size to a certain width and height. With using automatic sizing, you loose control over the exact layout of your dashboard when it is used with different screen sizes.

Dashboard size

But you should keep in mind that people might have different mobile devices to access your visualization too. Dashboards designed for desktop do not automatically work on tablets or mobile phones.

Tableau provides defaults to convert dashboards to tablet or mobile layouts. Then you can rearrange your elements to fit in into the new format and save these setups.

Click on ‘Device Preview’ and choose, for example, ‘Tablet’.

Dashboard size options

Now you can add a Tablet Layout.

Add a Tablet Layout
Tablet layout


Padding is an important instrument to create a clear dashboard. The reason for this is that padding creates white spaces, which makes it easy for us to see which element belong together. We can distinguish between inner and outer padding.

Outer vs. inner padding

Outer padding will take the whole container/object away from the other element. Look at the gray border of the element which is also taken away from the rest.

Outer Padding

Inner-padding will let the border at his place and creates the white space only around the content.

Inner Padding

Dashboard Actions

Actions are a good way to interact with the dashboard.

I will show you the most used ones: Filter-actions and Highlight-actions. Therefore, I created the following very simple dashboard.


Now we want to give the end-user the opportunity to only look at the Sales for one category. The following steps are necessary.

1. Select’ Dashboard’ and select ‘Actions’:

Dashboard action

2. Choose ‘Add Action’ and ‘Filter’

3. Define your source sheet and target sheets

Action menu

When the end-user click on one of the bars from the source-sheet the dashboard will be updated and look like this:

Filtered Dashboard

The same steps are necessary if you want to highlight elements of your dashboard. Let’s take a quick look at one example. Again we have a very simple dashboard. When we add a highlight action tableau shows us which elements belong together.

Highlighted dashboard

To see how interactivity works on a more complex dashboard check out Pradeep Kumar G.’s dashboard about Sale Performance.

Create a Story

A story can include sheets and dashboards. So, different sheets/dashboards will be arranged in a sequence. Storys are ideal to make a compelling case by showing how different aspects are built on one another. Every single sheet of a story is called a story point.

To be honest I have never created a story before. Consequently I have no special tips or advice, but let’s see which general steps we need.

Create a new story by clicking the following symbol:

Create a story

Now your screen will look like this:


At the bottom left corner, you can define the size of your story. Like with dashboards we can now easily drag a sheet or dashboard into the view to create the first story point.

We can add a new story point by adding a blank sheet or duplicating our first story point.

New story point

The legend of your story will be updated automatically.


Share a twbx as a PDF or image

Tableau makes ist very easy to export your view as a PDF or image. Keep in mind that in an image or pdf you will loose all interactive features of your worksheet or dashboard.

To create a PDF, select ‘File‘ and say ‘Print’. Then, choose your pdf printer or just ‘Save as PDF’.

Create a PDF

You could also export your worksheet or dashboard as an image.

Create an image

Your feedback is very welcome. Feel free to reach me out on Twitter or to use the comments below.

It was a totally new experience for me to share my work with others and I really had fun, particularly because of the great support!

Thanks to all who have continuously read my blog and especially for the feedback and kind words. I hope you enjoy reading this blog or even better the whole series. Good luck with your exam!
I also would like to say thank you to Andy Cotgreave for featuring this project!
Special thanks go to Klaus for providing me a platform to share my content, for taking the time to answer my questions and for giving me ideas for improving the blog posts.


Jul 23, 2020, 12:28:07 PM
Sadaf Siddiqui says:

Just finished reading and was following most of it alongside too. Thanks a lot, gave a structure to the preparation. Have registered, yet to schedule the exam.

Mar 15, 2020, 1:05:25 PM
Subhashini Manoharan (@Subhashini_m8) says:

Thank you so much Christine and Klaus! I passed Desktop Specialist Exam today! 🙂

Mar 7, 2020, 10:04:54 PM
Ravi P says:

Thank you! I have read all your posts on the certification and found them very useful.

Feb 19, 2020, 4:17:40 AM
Yaseen says:

Thank you so much.It has been a great read.