Six Uses for Transparent Shapes in Tableau

Sometimes you need to include custom shapes for your visualizations.

One useful trick in Tableau is including a completely transparent, single-pixel image as a shape on dashboards and worksheets. This shape is extremely versatile and underutilized. When hovering over the shape, the end-user is unable to highlight or select the shape. In fact, the single-pixel transparent .png can be used as a placeholder:

  • In combination with arrows showing direction (by showing no direction).
  • For missing data (or when a value may not be relevant)
  • To assign to false values in a boolean
  • To show deselected values in a parameter or set
  • As well as a few others.

This blog post outlines six example of how to use the transparent shape.

Example #1: Values with no change

Sometimes when showing rankings I have values with no change. When I’m showing a change in rank of 0 these values I like to use a transparent shape.

Example #2: Values outside of set of criteria

In this example I have criteria for competitors names to show if they are the top and have more than 30% of the overall market. Sometimes I use side-by-side charts but for this example I’ve put it all on one chart. Then I show the logos of the main competitors. If there is not a main competitor meeting the criteria they are assigned the transparent custom shape.

Example #3: When a value is equal to a parameter

Whether with a bar chart as an indicator or as custom drop-down, I sometimes use a custom transparent shape to highlight the value selected.

Example #4: When values are in a set or group.

When I have values in a set or group and I want to show a color indicator, I sometimes use a transparent shape.

Example #5: Transparent shapes for values that are FALSE in a boolean.

Sometimes I just want indicators for when something is above (or below) a threshold. In this case I can use transparent shapes.

Example #6: One-time alerts or instructions before proceeding.

Sometimes I provide instructions or an alert about the data to my audience. I’ll place the content inside a floating container, then use show/hide. I’ll set the default value to show and then I’ll change the transparent image to the hidden button. This way it can’t be found again.

This is just a few ways to use the transparent customized shape. Hopefully it’s been informative. If you have any questions or feedback about this blog please feel free to reach out to me at luke.stanke@tessellationconsulting.com

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