It can be a struggle to get the most out of your analytics tools. As analysts, most of us have to divide our learning time among several products, and each of those products is always evolving, adding and changing features to offer us more functionality. It’s easy to miss some additions, even if you use a tool regularly.
Google Data Studio is no different, always improving what it offers users, and some of those improvements can slide through unnoticed by the busy data professional. That’s why, for this post, we rounded up 4 key features and tips we find super-helpful when styling reports. Hopefully, these will save you some work the next time you are trying to make a report look just right.
We’ll use the Google Analytics Ecommerce report template and the Google Merchandise Store Demo Account data for our examples. The data set doesn’t line up perfectly with all the charts, but we are just here for the visual aspects anyway. This report is just an example, but remember that if you are editing a production report, it’s a good idea to make a copy of the report, or at least duplicate the page you are working on, in case something goes wrong, or you just want to refer to the original.
Take Advantage of Theme Settings
The first thing to note is that you have the ability to edit things like fonts and colors on the entire report in one place. From the menu at the top left, Click File > Theme and Layout to open the Theme and Layout options in the right-hand menu. From here, you can choose a preset theme to apply to your report, or even create a theme from an image. To edit the theme and make specific changes, click the Customize button.
Let’s say we want to make the table headers darker so they stand out more on the grey background. We go to the Accent styles section (which governs table header appearance) of the customize menu and apply a darker font color.
And then… Nothing happens. Wait, what?
Don’t panic. That just means that the tables were customized individually at some point. This is an important feature of Themes: you can still customize the styling of elements individually and those customizations will be maintained even if you later make changes at the theme level.
But where does that leave us? Do we then have to make our changes to the customized elements one at a time? Nope! Another important feature of themes is the ability to reset an element to use the report theme.
We can do this several elements at a time. We’ll select both of our tables and then go to the Style tab in the right-hand menu. Scroll all the way down, and you’ll see an Undo arrow with the text “Reset to report theme.” We click there, and the table headers now have the darker font we wanted.
Be careful with the “Reset to report theme” feature, though. There might be changes you aren’t aware of that also get reset, and there is no way to undo the reset. That’s one reason we work on duplicate copies of the page until we are sure our edits look good.
Take Advantage of Groups
Often in Data Studio, we’ll use a text box to add a title to an element, such as the donut chart at the bottom right of the report with the title text “Revenue by city.” In most cases, such as trying to move the donut chart, we’d want the textbox and the chart to behave as one element: the textbox should keep its position on top of the donut chart, wherever we drag the donut chart to. Having to drag them separately, and realign them, is inconvenient.
That’s a great use case for Data Studio’s grouping functionality. Select the textbox and donut chart, right click, and select Group.
Now, when you select either the textbox or the donut chart, both elements will be selected and you can move them together. Clicking again inside the group will select just that element of the group.
Be aware of one thing about including filter controls in a group: if you do, the filter control will only affect the other elements in the group, as opposed to everything on the page.
Take Advantage of Layers
An issue that comes up in Data studio is that there’s an easy way to get Period over Period comparison figures, or Year over Year figures, but you can’t get both right out of the box. There is, however, a work around. We needed more space to make this example clear, so I cut and pasted a scorecard from the top right onto a new page.
Let’s start by adding period over period comparisons to the score card from the Default Date section of the Data tab, in the right hand menu, when the scorecard is selected.
Then, go to the Style Tab and make sure “Hide Comparison Label” is unchecked.
For this trick to work, we need an opaque background, so while you are in the Style Tab, choose a background color other than Transparent.
Now that we have an opaque scorecard with PoP change, we can copy it, and put the copy “behind” the original.
Copy and paste the score card. Now, right click on the new copy, and select Order > Send to back.
Line up the copy below the original so that just the comparison data from the copy shows. Finally, (with the copy still selected) change the Comparison date range from Previous period to Previous year.
And there’s your metric with both PoP and YoY change! Remember to make a group out of these two scorecards so that you can move them both together without having to realign them.
Take Advantage of Format Cut and Paste
If we want to change the look of everything in a report, we are probably better off doing it at the Theme level. But what if we just want to change the way certain elements look, without making wider changes? The good news is that you still don’t have to make them all one at time.
If you select similar elements, you’ll be able to edit many of their styling features at the same time. If we want to change the color of our PoP/YoY double scorecard above, we can select both scorecards, and change the background color of both at once.
What if you were distracted and already made the changes to one element, though, or what if you want to apply the same formatting to elements on different pages? That’s when Format Cut and Paste comes to your rescue, especially if you made a bunch of styling changes and recreating them manually would be a real pain.
Right click on the element with the style you want to spread to other elements and select Copy. Now select the element(s) you want to apply the style to, right click, and select Paste Special > Paste style Only.
We hope knowing about these features and how to use them makes your life easier when styling Data Studio reports and dashboards. If you have any questions or tips of your own to share, please leave us a comment below, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Other Posts in Our 2021 Data Studio Series:
- Create Calculated Fields in Blended Data Source Tables with Data Studio
- Gain Insights on Data Studio Reports in Google Analytics
- Understanding the Advantages of Geo Charts & Google Maps in Data Studio
- Enhance GA4 Reporting Functionality with Calculated Metrics in Data Studio
- The Quick Reference Guide to GA4 Ecommerce Data in Data Studio
- Key Storytelling & Visualization Elements for Meaningful Stakeholder Reports
- Turn Up the Dial on your Dashboard Design with New Gauge Charts
- Visualize Your User Journey with Horizontal Bar Charts in Data Studio
- Taking Advantage of Data Studio Community Connectors
- Time Saving Layout Features You Should Be Using in Google Data Studio (this post)
- Quick Introduction of the New Report Publishing Control in Data Studio
- Guide to Collaboration & Transfer Ownership Features in Data Studio