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Information Design for Marketers: Bring Your Data to Life with Dashboard Actions

Behind the structure and layout of every sound dashboard are the important business questions requiring answers. The most important questions, such as ‘what are our trends in spending over time’, should be easy and obvious to the user, since your eyes are trained to naturally look to the top left, like reading a book, that visual should be placed there.

If you look at the TV Attribution dashboard below, from left to right, you can determine that this user is interested in Spend and Conversions, and the cost per conversion. These three topline visuals alone present high-level insight to the user and are an effective placement for an interpreter to quickly understand the story being presented in the dashboard.

Dashboard view

If you are new to data visualization, know that data can be presented in two formats; artistically through charts and fundamentally through a data table. Data tables are great for users who may be new to interpreting data visualizations. They help function as a second source of truth if the user has any concerns. This strategy serves as a natural way for your story to develop from high level KPIs (spend, conversions, and cost per conversion) down to your more granular details (impressions by line items) that may have impacted said KPIs.

What are dashboard actions?

Like every story, having good flow is important to keeping your audience engaged. Another way to keep your audience engaged is through dashboard actions, which can help to tell dynamic stories with your data. Using dashboard actions, you can create a singular interactive view of your marketing data that can be used across multiple teams. For example, Tableau’s dashboard actions have three types: highlights, filters, and URLs. These actions allow users to drill down into the data and customize their view without needing to create a separate dashboard to investigate every new ad hoc request.


Audience Intelligence Campaign

In the above image, the Audience Intelligence Campaign is highlighted in the bottom table, with the corresponding row, and the rest of the table is grayed out. As a result, we’re able to focus only on the data that matters to us.


It’s best practice to have any visuals that are impacted by your filters fall below them. Filters are essential to the bottom line, as they enhance the usability of dashboards while creating frictionless client relationships without painful back and forth. They give the client their own tools to answer the questions they have.

Tv attribution

In our example, we can filter the entire dashboard by selecting an option from one of the dropdown menus at the top. Furthermore, by clicking on the Audience Intelligence Campaign within the table, we have also filtered all six of the charts on this campaign. This seamless interactivity underscores the power of dashboard actions.


Question mark icon

Clicking on the question mark icon in the bottom center of the dashboard takes us to a documentation portal with descriptions of the metrics displayed.

By enabling dashboard actions in this view, we have created a one-stop shop for performance reporting. There is a clear focus on Spend, Conversions, and Cost per Conversion, since these metrics are always displayed in the top three bar charts. However, users can easily analyze other metrics for ad hoc requests. Additionally, the interactive filtering allows users to easily drill in on categories across visualizations. This is only a brief overview of what dashboard actions can do, so get out there and explore!

Since interpreting visual information can be like reading a book and critically thinking about its content, it is important that you understand how to see and interact with these dashboards. It’s essential to not only understands the data, but also how to work with it.

Want to learn more? Tableau’s online learning portal has step-by-step instructions on how to add dashboard actions. This blog post by Peter Gilks provides practical implementations of dashboard actions. Also be sure to check out our first blog post in this series on preattentive attributes, here.