Visualization is a critical component to communicating with data effectively. Our brains process visuals more quickly than plain numbers or text, allowing us to more quickly make comparisons and identify patterns.
Although it is often easiest to display data in a table of values, this can often be the most difficult format to interpret. Data exported from web analytics platforms like Google Analytics or other databases will usually be presented in a table of rows and columns. Luckily, there are many tools available that allow you to visualize your data with minimal effort.
Google Data Studio has many options for visualization, including bar charts, line charts, scatterplots, bullet charts, geo maps, and even the dreaded pie chart! These are all accessible from the main component menu. However, Data Studio also offers some simple visualization functionality that is a bit more hidden in the interface, but is still extremely useful.
In this post, we’ll go through how to add bars and heatmaps into multi-column tables as well as how to create sparklines in Data Studio.
1. Bar Columns
The ‘bar chart column’ can be added to a standard table in Data Studio to highlight how significant the difference is between rows. This allows you to quickly and easily make comparisons between the metrics.
To enable this feature:
- Select your table
- Click the ‘Style’ tab within the table properties.
- Scroll down to the Columns section.
- “Number” is the default column type. Click on “Number” to select “Bar”.
- Check off the “Show Number” box on the right to display your metric values alongside the bars.
Here’s a completed example using data from the Google Merchandise store:
2. Heatmap Columns
Just like bar chart columns, a “Heatmap” column can be enabled in the same way. In step 4 above, select “Heatmap” instead of Bar.
When you enable a heatmap column, the cells in that column will be shaded according to the value of the metric. The higher the value, the darker the cell.
Since the lengths of bars are easier to compare than the opacity of cells, bar charts should generally be preferred over heatmaps. However, there may be cases where you won’t have the space for bars alongside the table values. In this case, heatmaps can be a viable option:
3. Spark Lines
Spark lines can be used with standard “Scorecard” charts in Data Studio to concisely illustrate trends for a given metric. This is similar to what you find in many of the overview reports in Google Analytics.
To use spark lines you must:
- Create a regular time series chart.
- Under the “Style” heading, remove the axes by deselecting the “Show axes” box.
- Remove the legend by selecting “None” under the “Legend” section.
- Remove the grid by changing the grid color to “Transparent”.
Here’s a completed example of sparklines used to show an overview of metrics from Google Analytics:
Let us know which visualizations you like best! Feel free to comment on your favourites below.
To learn more about Data Studio dashboard creation, see our upcoming in-class Data Studio course.
See our related Data Studio posts below to learn more on the features in Data Studio:
1. Tracking Your Data Studio Dashboards in Google Analytics
2. How to Share a Data Studio Report
3. Google Analytics Dashboard Template for Data Studio
4. Calculating Goal Flow Conversion Rate in Data Studio
5. Adding Images to Your Tables in Data Studio
6. Embedding Links in Data Studio
7. Custom Channel Groupings in Data Studio
8. Calculating Percent of Total in Data Studio
9. Tips for Using RegEx in Data Studio
10. Data Studio Connectors from a Galaxy Far, Far Away
11. Audit Your Google Analytics Implementation with Data Studio