A highlight table is a form of data visualization where values are shown in different colors. This makes it easy for people to see which numbers are bigger or smaller just by looking at the colors.

As we dive into creating our first highlight map in Tableau, it’s essential to highlight the significance of learning chart creation from scratch. While Tableau’s “Show Me” feature offers quick access to a highlight map, there’s immense value in grasping the foundational concepts. Mastering the basics not only provides deeper insights into chart mechanics but also fosters creativity for crafting unique visualizations. 

Let’s kick things off by establishing a hierarchy for our products, using the renowned Superstore dataset as our playground.

In Tableau, we can create hierarchies to organize our data into groups. For instance, imagine we’re looking at products dataset. At the top level, we have broad categories like Furniture, Office Supplies, and Technology. Each of these categories can then be broken down into more specific sub-categories. For Technology, this might include things like Accessories, Copiers, Machines, and Phones. And we can keep getting more specific from there, like breaking down Phones into different manufacturers and individual product IDs. This hierarchy helps us organize our data in a structured and easy-to-understand way.

1. Creating the Hierarchy: Begin by selecting “Category.” While holding Ctrl, right-click on “Sub-Category” and navigate to the “Create Hierarchy” option. Click on it, then rename the hierarchy to “Product Hierarchy.” Alternatively, you can achieve the same by dragging the “Category” field onto the “Sub-Category” field.


2. Setting Up the Columns and Rows for Highlighting: For the purpose of this blog, we’ll focus on highlighting values with a dimension called “Segment.” Drag the “Segment” into the columns and the newly created “Product Hierarchy” into the rows. See how you can click on the plus icon to display subsequent hierarchies and minus to go back to the top-level hierarchy.

3. Bringing in the Measures: Now, let’s visualize the metrics. Drag measures such as sales and profit onto the canvas. For instance, drag “Sales” into the canvas view, where it will automatically display the sum of sales. To incorporate color, indicating profit, drag “Profit” into the “Colors” mark card. You can show highlight colors by the sum of sales values itself, but for demonstration purposes, I am dragging profit to show it against the sales.

Now, we can see color coming into play and showing up in text, but it’s still somewhat challenging to discern which category is more profitable and which is not at a glance. For our eyes, it would be more intuitive if the background were colored to help users identify categories more easily.

4. Adjusting Marks type for Visualization: Next, we want to present the colors as a background of text. In the marks shelf, select “Square” from the dropdown menu, where it’s set to automatic by default. And voila! You’ve just created a highlight map in Tableau by yourself.

Additionally, with the implementation of hierarchy, you can now easily track which category is most profitable and analyze it at the sub-category level. 

From our example dataset, we can easily figure out that among the high-level categories, Technology is more profitable, and if we dig deeper, we can see that the Tables sub-category under the Furniture category is the least profitable, while the Copiers sub-category under the Technology category is the most profitable.

And there you go, now you’ve learned to create a highlight map in Tableau!

Prerana Amatya
Author: Prerana Amatya