Building a Data Discovery Dashboard

What’s In Our Data?

When starting to work with a new data set, it seems that we all have our own methods of how we like to dive in.  I have seen – and used – almost every method in the book, but the goal is always the same: how do we find out what questions we should ask of this data? Tableau is designed as a data discovery tool, but where do we get started?

Recently, I’ve zeroed in on a method that seems to works quite well.  I start out with the goal of creating a “Data Discovery Dashboard” that allows me to pivot on all the primary Dimensions and then note what insights I can glean.  Of course, the trick is how to find out what dimensions should be used for “discovery navigation” (i.e., knowing what to use as primary filters for your data), or other types of graphs.  In this short video, I will show you my method of Dimension Discovery, by using Measure Names and Measure Values in a slightly different way than they were intended.

– Chris Cox, Founder of Boulder Insight


Building the Dashboard: Step-By-Step Tutorial

Building the dashboard can be broken down into two major steps: performing a Measure Discovery and a Dimension Discovery. Here are the main steps used to accomplish these:


  1. Double Click on Measure Names
    • This will pull in all of your measures into a crosstab at the default aggregation.
    • Keep in mind that if you have not altered the default aggregation of a measure, the numbers might not make sense.  (For Example – Discount % only makes sense if the default aggregation is set to AVG.)
  2. Double Click on Measure Values
    • This will do the same as the above, but it will put the data into a visual graph automatically.


  1. Duplicate and Rename your Data Source
    • This is so you don’t mess up the data source you will ultimately be working with.
  2. Highlight and Hide all Measures (EXCEPT for Number of Records)
    • This is just a step to eliminate confusion.  You already did the Measure Discovery in the previous section, so no need to duplicate that work.
  3. Highlight and Drag ALL of your Dimensions to the Measures section of the Data Pane
    • From this point forward I am going to refer to these as ‘Dimensions as Measures’.
  4. Highlight ALL ‘Dimensions as Measures’ again and right click and choose: Default Properties > Aggregation > Count Distinct
  5. Double Click Measure Values
    • This is going to automatically pull in any of your ‘Dimensions as Measures’ that have a  data type of Number to show up in your Measure Values Shelf.
  6. Highlight ALL of your ‘Dimensions as Measures’ again, and drag them to the Measure Values Shelf.
    • Don’t worry about pulling over duplicate ‘Dimensions as Measures’ as Tableau will de-dupe for you.
  7. Pivot and Sort Ascending
    • Optional step, but it puts things in a nice readable order.
  8. Enjoy!



We hope this brief tutorial has been helpful for you! As always, please feel free to leave comments and feedback – and if you’re struggling with other Tableau concepts, let us know what tutorials you would like to see in the future!


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