Tableau quick tip: turn your column headers into filters

nobody looks over here

A perennial problem with filters: how do you make your users aware they are there ? How do you wrench their eyes away from the marks and headers and over to the filters on the right?

To fix this, I stumbled across another potential method: replace the Column Headers with Filters. I say stumbled because I wasn’t consciously trying to solve the problem when I implemented it. It’s only afterwards that I realised what I’d done!


What’s the advantage of doing it this way?

  • People are looking at the top left of your chart, so they are more likely to register that they can filter the dimensions.
  • It’s a cleaner view. The top banner is freed to have just my dashboard title. The right hand side doesn’t have that unusual blank space beneath the filters.

To implement this, it was simply a case of floating the filters over the column headers. For a design aspect, I ensured they were the same width as the columns in the view itself. I also tweaked the colours to bring attention to the dropdown itself.

BTW – go check the interactive Script Wars viz here. Or go check out what others have done with #StarWarsData.


Add Yours →

I often do this with a parameter that changes the dimension for the column, but never though to do it with filters. Thanks for the tip.

This is a great tip…for vizzes with fixed aspect ratios. Once you introduce size ranges (i.e. min and max, to accommodate responsive design), floaters become supremely uncooperative. 🙂

Hi Michael – agreed, floating doesn’t work on mixed size ranges. I tend to avoid size ranges as all sorts of control issues get introduced. I like the control of using fixed size dashboards.

I tend to as well, but we’ve recently embarked on a project where the users are VERY insistent on responsive design and so we need to use ranges to cover the spectrum of screen sizes we’re rolling out to. Certainly poses some design challenges. All in all Tableau handles itself nicely, but I do find myself having to nudge things here and there a bit more to find the right position that looks good across the range.

Thanks for the suggestion, this works great for me. Tableau still baffles me sometimes in lack of functionality that other things like Excel or Qliksense have natively built in. It has so much potential if only they listened to actual users

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