When you first start building visualisations in either Power BI or Tableau, it is easy to fall into the trap of creating reports or dashboards with too much jammed into them. Even if there are lots of fantastic insights and useful analysis on the visualisation, most of the time these insights will be overwhelmed and lost in the sheer size and business of the report or dashboard. Another big issue caused by having too much information on a single report/dashboard is the dreaded need to scroll… Ok, it isn’t as bad as I make it sound, but there are some general rules that are suited for best practice.

 

In Tableau, you want to avoid wide dashboards, as sideways scrolling is always a nuisance and detract from your presentation engagement. It is always safest to go for a longer vertical dashboard if it is completely necessary. But remember, you don’t want to be constantly scrolling down and down! In Power BI, there isn’t as much flexibility in the report layout. Generally speaking, you can’t stretch the wide or height infinitely, so as long as it roughly follows a 16:9 dimension ratio and can fit on a screen without having to scroll, you’re all good!

 

However, one of the issues with a more set Power BI layout means reports can often be crammed with all the charts (whereas in Tableau you can just make the dashboard longer). Below is one of my practice Power BI reports. I re-modelled my initial Data School application on Tableau to work as a Power BI report. Now all of that is out of the way. here are 4 tips to help declutter your Power BI reports.

 

 

 

1. Drillthroughs

 

Using a drillthrough is an excellent way to include more specific insights on certain areas without actually taking up any extra real estate on the main report. Also, a drillthrough can help to structure your insights and analysis. For example, my main report above gives a macro style overview of the Spotify top songs data. This main report gives you all the essential information immediately, such as the trend in popularity across the years, most popular characteristics for songs, and then a ranked table of the most popular songs on Spotify. However, I wanted to see the musical characteristics for each specific song on the ranked table so I could compare and evaluate if they fall within the ranges presented in the bar charts. Essentially, I wanted to zoom in on a more micro level.

 

 

Using a drillthrough in this instance helped create that logical progression of macro to micro analysis, whilst also allowing me to include more insights and information on a separate page without cluttering the main report page with extra wide tables or multitudes of charts. I personally enjoy using a drillthrough as the logical progression of analysis creates a narrative for the cause and effects of details within the data. This not only helps in structuring a presentation, but also adds value to the data for the client, as they can see directly relationships and connections between aspects within their business model.

 

2. Field Parameters

 

A field parameter allows you to keep the structure and layout of a chart(s)/report(s) whilst being able to easily switch the dimensions and measures. This is an extremely useful tool to keep your report nice and neat, whilst still exploring the full depth of multiple measures and dimensions. For example, in my initial Tableau dashboard for the top Spotify songs, I had one bar chart for each dimension (tempo, duration, energy, danceability etc.). This took up a lot of space on the dashboard. So when I remade the dashboard as a Power BI report, I used the field parameters to allow for a much sleeker style without the need for 9 extra bar charts, making sure it fit neatly onto the report layout. By using a field parameter, I was able create a tile slicer that instantly switch to a specific characteristic, whilst keeping the structure, position and format of the bar chart.

 

 

You can also format your slicer to be a vertical list or dropdown menu as well depending on how you want to present the data. Additionally, field parameters also can be used to switch between measures. For example, if I had an additional measure such as “average popularity rating” or a “billboard rating”, I could swap between each of those, as well as simultaneously switching the song characteristic. Depending on the scale of your data and what charts you are showing on a report, you can have multiple field parameters, and certain field parameters can control numerous charts (even across different reports using the ‘sync slicer’ feature).

 

3. Bookmarks

 

Bookmarks can be used to essentially overlay chart(s) and textbox(es) over the existing report page. Bookmarks allow you to chart swap or overlay additional insights or information, giving you extra hidden space that doesn’t clutter up the original report. In theory you can have as many bookmarks as you want. However, if you were going over 5 bookmarks for a single report, I would recommend restructuring the design of the report, as multiple bookmarks can be quite difficult to manage. For each bookmark, you essentially have to ‘stage’ a design, making sure specific elements are hidden and showing. Multiple bookmarks end up overwriting each other’s set ‘stages’ so if you are alternating between bookmarks, things end up being hidden you want to show, and things show that you want hidden. So keep it simple!

 

 

In my Power BI remake, I used a simple full report overlay to show a singular chart when I press the information button. In hindsight, this could be much better utilised to feature key insights and descriptions of the dimensions and what they mean. My Power BI example was done for a end of week challenge in a short time period, so the logical flow and decision to do a genre chart isn’t exactly amazing! But alas, the function of the bookmark does provide extra space to include whatever you need to without inhibiting the original report page.

 

4. Tooltips

 

Using tooltips to include extra information may seem obvious, but is very much worthy of mentioning on the list in decluttering and allowing more space on the main dashboard. It also helps to provide that logical progression of analysis from macro to micro, or simply may provide an  insight that isn’t extremely vital to the overall analysis, but is interesting to know in relation to a business’ model. Asides from including data as text, you can also include charts within the tooltip, which saves you from having to include it on the main report page. You can essentially declutter not only a report, but a singular chart using tooltips; you can include numerical values that clutter up the chart, or perhaps specific titles or categorical information that don’t fit nicely in the chart.

 

But back to the chart in a tooltip now. Including a chart in the tooltip is much like a drillthrough in the sense of logical progression and the ability for macro and micro analysis, but just on a more immediate way. Tooltips shouldn’t include 500 complexly designed charts with multitudes of dimensions and measures. Rather, they should be relatively simple, clear and easy to read, giving the client immediate insights and value without them having to spend minutes lingering on the chart trying to decipher it. A tooltip is simply a tool – an aid to the main analysis (which again lends itself to the macro to micro analysis progression).

 

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So there you go, hopefully these tips come in handy when you need to clean up a Power BI report. Remember, these are tools to help include important and interesting insights and analysis that helps answer a clients business needs. The first step in decluttering a report is making sure you analysis is focused on these business outcomes, and doesn’t include any “cool” but unrelated analysis.

Ben Devries
Author: Ben Devries