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Custom Tableau Dashboard:
How to Build a Data UX Dashboard

August 12, 2022

Over the past decade, Business Intelligence (BI) has evolved significantly. It has been quite the trip from manual spreadsheets to self-service BI. As business priorities evolve — metrics and dashboards are also constantly changing — custom dashboards aren’t always necessary. Larger development cycles just make the process or data analytics less dynamic.

Are we missing a better user experience in this hurry? When somebody connects to a data source and creates a dashboard by simply dragging and dropping widgets, are they thinking of the end user? Research indicates that businesses face issues with user adoption with today’s BI platforms. One way to solve this is to have intuitive, storytelling Tableau dashboards or pages. Nobody likes a messy page, and Tableau can build quality, good-looking dashboards using native features. But, how about going beyond that? Can we make something supremely intuitive like a webpage on Tableau? The answer is a resounding Yes.

This was not always possible. But, today, thanks to the Extension SDK, we can make it work. The Tableau dashboard built out of Extension SDK is simply a .trex file that works in a Tableau environment. While most of the extensions you find on the Tableau Exchange add features to Tableau, we are talking about a standalone dashboard.

How to Build a Tableau Dashboard?
Extensions are combination of JavaScript libraries provided by Tableau baked in our code. Bringing the metadata of these items to a manifest file gets you the .trex file. This file is loaded into a Tableau dashboard along with a sheet to feed data.

Tableau Dashboard Architectural Diagram

As shown in the architectural diagram above, the logic and UI are hosted separately, and Tableau acts as a host. As the Extension is standalone, and resides outside on the internet, you are free to use any customization. Having said that, we need to make sure the data fetch from Tableau to your Extension is seamless by abiding by the criteria set by Tableau.

The beauty of Extension Dashboard is that it works as a template that can be reused and configured in seconds. Also, it is extremely scalable. Once built, you can share the .trex file with multiple people or use it for different clients.

It is good practice to set up the UI and then the configuration window. The configuration window tells the user what to select and what not to. Remember, for a sheet containing all the required data points (preferably in a table format) to load before the .trex file. This will make certain that the dropdown or selections display the field names.

Use Cases for Tableau Dashboard Extensions

• A Template is the best approach if an enterprise or agency wants to recreate the same dashboards repeatedly. An Extension-based dashboard Template is the best option. Unlike other .twbx templates, we can have exclusive branding and UI — all configured in seconds.
• Other practical examples for Extension Dashboard include Executive Summaries, client facing displays, and TV dashboards.

Things to Remember

• Tableau’s ease of implementation and drilldowns are unmatched. Custom Tableau dashboards, based on Extension SDK, are never a replacement for a standard Tableau implementation. As mentioned before, these dashboards need a particular use case and shouldn’t be more than five- or 10-percent of your total number of dashboards.
• Regarding development, there can be challenges around the Dashboard reset issue. As extensions are designed to work within a dashboard, the dashboard will get reset to the configuration page for every page refresh. To solve this, you may need to write a few lines of code to keep the session intact.

About Decision Foundry

Decision Foundry is a leader in Tableau Consulting and dashboard management. We can help you document, build, and automate new reporting solutions, or extend the value of your existing infrastructure. Our dedicated team of professionals have hundreds of implementations under their belts and we’re just getting started.

When you partner with Decision Foundry, you’re collaborating with certified Tableau professionals. Our unrivaled data user experience produces profound insights through augmented dashboards enriched by AI for an even deeper understanding of your data.

Contact us today for a quick discovery call.