Pretty much everyone knows that bar charts are a great way to visualize your data.
Really, one of the best.
There are LOTS of reasons why bar charts are just plain awesome, but the two MAIN REASONS are:
- everyone understands them starting in grade school. People know how bar graphs work.
- everyone can quickly estimate values to spot check the numbers displayed in the bar chart.
Now, most people have created lots of bar charts for school projects or maybe in Excel.
But, here’s the thing:
Tableau is a great tool for making bar charts and there are a few techniques worth learning.
In this guide, you will learn:
- How to make a basic bar chart, even if it’s your first time using Tableau
- How to make clustered bar charts (or grouped bar charts) using multiple measures
- Instructions for making stacked bar charts in Tableau
- All about dual axis bar charts (also known as bullet charts)
- How you can create a regular bar chart next to a stacked bar chart side-by-side
- How to create diverging bar charts (kinda tricky but worth it!)
- Tips, tricks, and techniques to wow your colleagues!
How to Make a Basic Tableau Bar Chart
There are really just two steps to create a basic Tableau Bar Chart
- Drag and drop a measure field from the lower left of the scren to the Rows shelf at the top of the screen
- Drag and drop a dimension field from the upper left of the screen to the Columns shelf at the top of the screen
If you’re wondering, measures are just things that can be counted. Dimensions are used to group those things. For example, “Sales” is something that can be counted and “Category” is one way that we can view sales.
Try making a simple bar chart in Tableau
How to Make Grouped Bar Charts in Tableau
If you want to compare sales across multiple dimensions (like sales by customer segment and order year, as you see below) then you definitely want a grouped bar chart.
Tableau Grouped Bar Chart Instructions
- First, drag a measure to the Rows shelf
- Second, drag any dimension to the Columns shelf
- Lastly, drag another dimension to the Columns shelf at the top of the screen
You should know:
Viewing your measure by two dimensions creates the grouping or clustered bar chart view. Pro tip: add your second dimension to the Color section of the marks card so it’s easier to understand the data.
How to Make Stacked Bar Charts in Tableau
Stacked bar charts are the best way to show how the individual pieces contribute to the total.
For example, if you want to show sales data by categories in addition to total sales you can build a stacked bar chart to show all of that in one easy-to-read view.
Tableau Stacked Bar Chart Instructions
- Drag and drop any measure to the Rows shelf
- Pull a first dimension into the Columns shelf
- Finally, drag any dimension to the Color section of the Marks Card
Keep in mind:
You can add multiple dimensions for a stacked bar chart but it’s best to stick with just a few for one visualization to keep it simple.
How to Make Dual Axis Bar Charts in Tableau
Dual axis bar charts (also known as bullet charts) are a great way to compare two different measures with just one dimension.
For example, if you wanted to compare both sales data and profit data against the same time period, you can use a dual axis bar chart to show that.
Tableau Dual Axis Bar Chart Instructions
- Take a measure and drop it into the Rows shelf
- Drag a first dimension to the Columns shelf
- Drag a second measure to the edge of the visualization to drop it on the second axis
- Reduce the size of the bar in the front, synchronize the axis, and format as needed
Dual axis bar charts are a great way to show progress against a goal. Make the first measure the goal and the second measure the actual value and you have a quick gauge to see where you stand against a target.
How to Make Stacked Combo Charts in Tableau
Stacked combo charts are a combination of a stacked bar chart and a grouped bar chart (both are covered earlier in this guide).
These can be useful for showing how pieces in one category or group compare against the whole and also against other categories. It’s a good way to show some context without overwhelming the viewer with too much detail.
Tableau Stacked Combo Chart Instructions
- Drag and drop any measure to the Rows section
- Pull one Dimension to the Columns section
- Finally, drag a second Dimension to the Columns section
- Create a calculated field that returns the pieces of one category but the total for all other categories.
Use this code as an example
IF [Category] = 'Furniture' then [Sub-Category] ELSE [Category] END
Add your calculated field to the Color section on the Marks card to highlight the differences.
How to Make Diverging Bar Charts in Tableau
This bar chart style takes a little more skill to build but it’s a great way to compare the difference of one measure between two dimensions.
For example, you can use a diverging bar chart in Tableau to show the difference in sales from one year to the next.
Tableau Diverging Bar Chart Instructions
- Pull one measure to the Columns section
- Drag a dimension field into the Rows section
- Drag another dimension to the Filter section and select two items to compare
- Create two new calculated fields based on the measure from Step 1 above.
- The calculated fields are inverse from each other
- For example: if you are looking at total sales 2012 vs. total sales 2015, then one of the calculated fields must be a negative value.
- Drag both calculated fields to the Columns section and remove the initial measure to clean up
Use this code as an example
This is a good standalone visualization but not a great choice as part of a larger dashboard since there’s a lot of processing involved for the viewer to compare all of the data points.