Are you a Tableau newbie? Do you want to learn more about Tableau? Before finding out about The Data School and embarking on my Data School journey, I had never even heard of Tableau. Of course, with my application process, I got a crash course in the basics of Tableau, but I thought I would write a blog about Tableau. This blog is an introduction to the software, its origins, applications, strengths, weaknesses, and a basic guide to getting started. So, if you’ve recently discovered Tableau and are eager to explore its potential, read on.

In the data world, Tableau has emerged as a powerful tool that empowers individuals and organizations to unlock insights, make data-driven decisions, and present information in captivating ways through data visualisation.

Table of contents
What is Tableau?
What can Tableau be used for?
Who should use Tableau?
Strengths of Tableau
Weaknesses of Tableau
Getting Started with Tableau


What is Tableau?

Tableau is a leading data visualisation and business intelligence software that allows users to connect, explore, and visualise data from a variety of sources in an intuitive and interactive manner. It enables users to analyse complex datasets and present findings in the form of insightful charts, graphs, maps, and dashboards. Tableau is available in both a free (via Tableau Public) and paid form.

When and why did Tableau start?

Tableau was founded in 2003 by researchers at Stanford University who specialised in data visualisation for analysing relational databases. The founders of Tableau had a data analyst background and created the software in an aim to “bridge between where the data is stored and getting it into a useful form that can be manipulated and explored.” Tableau’s user-friendly interface and focus on visual analytics revolutionized the field by enabling users to interact with data visually, regardless of their technical background and in 2019 Tableau was purchased by Salesforce.


For which tasks can Tableau be used?

Tableau can be used in various industries and professions, really any organisation or individual who has data to analyse. Some of the main industries that use the software include business, finance, healthcare, marketing and education.

Its versatile capabilities enable users to:

  1. Explore Data: Tableau allows users to connect to multiple data sources, combine datasets, and perform ad-hoc analysis to discover patterns, trends, and insights.
  2. Create Interactive Dashboards: Tableau’s drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create interactive dashboards and reports that provide real-time insights. These visualisations can be shared across teams and departments and accessed on various devices.
  3. Data Storytelling: Tableau empowers users to tell compelling stories with data. It enables the creation of visually appealing presentations, highlighting key findings and driving impactful narratives.


Who should use Tableau?

Tableau is designed for individuals and organizations that want to make sense of their data and harness its potential. It caters to a wide range of users, including data analysts, business analysts, data scientists, marketers, researchers and consultants. Tableau’s interface and extensive capabilities means it accessible in some form to both technical and non-technical users.


Strengths of Tableau:

  • Data visualisation: One of Tableau’s main strengths is how easy it makes creating data visualisations and dashboards.
  • Interactivity of said Visualisations: Tableau’s interactive features allow users to drill down, filter, and explore data dynamically. This interactivity means that dashboards can be used, and data insights can be consumed by a wide range of users with varying data skill levels and data literacy.
  • Intuitive User Interface: Tableau’s drag-and-drop interface and visual approach make it user-friendly, even for beginners.
  • Versatile Connectivity: Tableau can connect to various data sources, including spreadsheets, databases, cloud platforms, and web services.
  • Robust Community: Tableau boasts a vibrant community of users, offering resources, forums, and collaboration opportunities.

Weaknesses of Tableau:

  • Cost: Tableau’s licensing costs can be a consideration for organizations as Tableau Public (the free version of the platform) may not be suitable for professional use in many cases.
  • Steeper Learning Curve for Advanced Features: While Tableau’s basic functionality is user-friendly, mastering advanced features may require additional learning and practice.
  • Data formatting: as Tableau’s main strength is data visualisation, it is not as strong in data formatting. Other tools (such as Alteryx) can be used in conjunction with Tableau if a lot of data manipulation needs to be done before analysis and visualisation.

Getting Started for Tableau newbies

The following is a very high-level explanation of the first steps to take if you want to start exploring Tableau’s capabilities.

  1. Download and Install: Firstly, visit the Tableau website and download the free trial or choose the appropriate version for your needs.
  2. Connect to Data: Secondly, connect Tableau to your data source, whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet, a database, or a cloud service.
  3. Explore and Visualise: Thirdly, drag and drop fields onto the canvas, choose visualisation types, and customise the visual elements to create meaningful representations of your data.
  4. ¬†Interact and Analyse: Next, utilize Tableau’s interactive features to explore and analyse your data. Apply filters, create calculations, and utilize Tableau’s powerful functions.
  5. Share and Collaborate: Finally, publish your visualisations to Tableau Server or Tableau Public to share them with others. Collaborate with colleagues by granting access and permissions.

Tableau is a game-changing tool that empowers individuals and organizations to explore, analyse, and present data in a visually captivating manner. Whether you’re a data enthusiast, an analyst, or a business professional, Tableau offers an intuitive platform for unlocking insights, telling compelling data stories, and making data-driven decisions. Start your Tableau journey today and discover the power of data visualisation at your fingertips.


Emma Wishart
Author: Emma Wishart