DESIGN GUIDE PART 2: Framework & Layouts

Judit Bekker
Aug 18 · 5 min read

Did you enjoy our previous post about frameworks & layouts in Tableau? Here we continue that thread by exploring how applying those rules can improve your overall design through some practical examples on padding and dashboard sizes.

Selecting the right dashboard size

Before we jump into the importance of padding, there are a few things to consider about choosing the right dashboard size. There are three options to select from in Tableau: fixed size, range, and automatic. All three have their advantages, and it depends on the use case which is best for your scenario. Let’s explore which option to use when!

Fixed size (default):

In this case, your dashboard will remain the same size no matter what device you use it on. What looks great on a monitor might get scrollable on a PC (not to speak about tablets and phones). In most cases, you’d like to keep away from scrolling. If you’re creating a long-form viz, then vertical scrolling is totally acceptable, but you should avoid horizontal scrolling by all means. We recommend the maximum width of your dashboard to be 1366 px, that’s how wide the generic desktop screens are.

However, you can pre-set a size if there’s a specific purpose you’d like to use it for, such as Laptop Browser, iPad, or Blog. If you know that your dashboard will be exported to PPT or printed out as a PDF file you can set your size to be PowerPoint / A4 Portrait and these will fit your purpose perfectly.

Pro tip: Always turn off phone layout if you’re not designing for mobile and/or use floating and tiled elements combined.

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Fixed-size options in Tableau Public

Automatic:

This option will resize your dashboard in a way that it always fits your display. Using a tiled dashboard layout with automatic size is a good option when there are multiple types of devices used across your organization. Let’s imagine a scenario where the CEO uses an iPad, sales representatives carry their mobiles with themselves, while the Finance team is sitting in the office in front of a PC. No better way to serve all these needs than using automatic sizing!

Pro tip: Be cautious when building your dashboard, this is not an option if you use floating containers.

Range:

This size option sits somewhere between the two we mentioned already. Here you can define a minimum and maximum size for your dashboard. When you display it on a screen smaller than the minimum size, a scroll bar will appear, while the excess area on a display larger than the maximum setting will be filled with white space. This option comes in handy when you are designing a dashboard to be published on similarly shaped screens with different sizes (such as small- and medium-sized browser windows).

Pro tip: In 95% of the cases just stick to fixed or automatic sizing.

Now that we know which size option to use when, we can deep dive into the importance of using paddings to let your design breathe by using white space smartly.

Padding is the oxygen to your charts

What is padding and why is it so important? When I googled what the word means this was the first explanation that popped up:

A cushioning or protective material is padding. When you’re moving into a new apartment, you might want to wrap your dishes in padding to keep them from being damaged.

And this is exactly what it is! You can keep the elements of your dashboard from being cluttered by using enough padding to separate them. In Tableau, there are 2 ways you can control the white space between your charts: inner and outer padding. “Inner padding sets the spacing between item contents and the perimeter of the border and background color; outer padding provides additional spacing beyond the border and background color.” This is the explanation provided by Tableau, but for the more visual types, here’s how you can imagine this:

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Pro tip: Use the same padding for all the elements to keep your design consistent and don’t be afraid of using wide paddings.

Looking at examples

Just to try it out on a dashboard everyone knows, here’s the Customer Analysis sheet of the Superstore dashboard as it appears when I open it up on my Mac with the default padding (varies between 2 px and 4 px) settings. And just right under that, a version, where I increased the outer padding to 20 px for all the charts, the title, and the dashboard itself. It conveys the same message but lets the charts breathe a little more, and this way it’s less exhausting for the eyes to look at.

Pro tip: By increasing the outer padding for your 1st tile in the Item hierarchy, you can adjust the margin of your dashboard.

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Superstore dashboard with default padding
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Superstore dashboard using 20 px outer padding

Margins and paddings are equally important whether you design a business dashboard or an infographic style viz. Here’s a visualization about Budapest, which we will spoil to demonstrate how using white spaces inconsistently can damage your overall design.

On the 1st image, you can see that the left margin is much wider than the right, elements are not aligned vertically and horizontally, and there is not enough white space between the paragraphs and chart labels. Have a look at the Pest / Buda labels on each image to see how much it adds to the design if you align elements carefully.

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Elements aligned in the wrong (1st image) and the right (2nd image) way

Hungry for more? Stay tuned, colors will be the next in our dataviz guide blog post series. Feel free to share our post with your friends and jot us a message if you have any questions.


Originally published at https://dataviz.love on August 18, 2020.

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