Here are a few fun tips for visualizing data with Tableau maps. Tableau maps are more powerful and deeper than they initially appear. You can do some amazing geospatial visualizations with them – including awesome animated mapping visualizations over time periods. Unlike just about every other aspect of Tableau that I simply adore, I do confess to battling a bit with maps. If it weren’t for Richard Leeke’s example workbooks on radius mapping and other shared workbooks on Tableau Public, I would have been totally stumped on how to accomplish the advanced radius mapping visualizations.

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(Note: Speaking of sharing workbooks, one more Tableau community site was launched this week that will be a good resource to reverse engineer Tableau workbooks. It is called the Tableau Workbook Library.)

First Tip, Street Level Mapping

Tableau has a mapping page dedicated to providing information on how their maps work and what data is used. They also have some good tutorials on mapping. To visualize locations and for example competitor locations at street level on a map, you would need to have the street address latitude and longitude. There are several free and for fee services available for geocoding latitude and longitude. Here are a couple of them:

Address Geocoding for Street level Latitude/Longitude Mapping

http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/geocoder
http://batchgeo.com
http://www.melissadata.com/geocoder/geocoding.html
http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/excel-geocoding-tool-v2

Tableau has a live example of Street Level Mapping in the Retail industry section of the Tableau website with a fully functional workbook that you can download, use and/or change with your own data sets. Several free online mapping tutorials, step-by-step examples and a Tableau Knowledgebase article is available on this topic.

Second Tip, Radius Mapping.

To add radius filtering to your maps, there are several examples and a knowledgebase article that are a must read. Radius circles are an advanced topic since they use complex earth geometry calculations in the calculated fields to compute and render circles. I would highly recommend taking an existing, fully functional radius circle example and load your data into it to avoid having to define the geometry calculations. Here are my favorite “How To” articles on this topic that also include Tableau workbook samples. Richard Leeke is a brilliant guru on the Tableau radius mapping topic; he has shared several complex examples in his posts that I have found invaluable.

http://kb.tableausoftware.com/articles/knowledgebase/radius-filters
http://community.tableausoftware.com/message/176349#176349
http://community.tableausoftware.com/message/177299

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If you want to get really savvy and create Drive Time radius geocodes, Alteryx has advanced geocoding that is easy for business users to do this themselves. Alteryx also a rich array of related data sources such as MOSAIC, Dun and Bradstreet, Experian, and TomTom. I showed an example of Drive Time radius mapping in an earlier blog Self-Service ETL Tool Options.

Third Tip, Weather and Data Mapping Overlays

The WMS map layering in Tableau just might be one of my favorite mapping features. I do like to see if weather affects results when analyzing data. To add a weather layer, you can use a free or paid WMS service. Once you find a WMS service, you can add it to Tableau’s WMS Servers list. To do that, go to Maps > Background Maps > WMS Servers and choose Add. Once there enter in the URL of the WMS Service, click ok. Now go to Maps > Background Maps > and select the WMS Service to display the weather. Additional WMS map layering information is available in the Tableau Online docs.

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Fourth Tip, Using Google Maps in Tableau

Tableau can also integrate with Google maps. There is a Tableau Knowledgebase article on this topic. I usually have integrated Google maps via an Action.

http://onlinehelp.tableausoftware.com/v8.0/pro/online/en-us/help.htm#actions_url.html
http://onlinehelp.tableausoftware.com/v8.0/pro/online/en-us/actions_dashboards.html

On the Tableau Dashboard, choose Dashboard > Actions > Add Action. Select URL and paste in the Google Maps URL i.e. http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&authuser=0&q=Miami . Highlight the city name Miami and select the City attribute in your data set to dynamically display city level mapping. You can use this same approach for mapping other locational data. Aside from maps, actions can also be used to integrate other web applications to display a specific record such as Salesforce.com record or embed a Microsoft Reporting Services Report.

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There are many other Tableau mapping visualization techniques that I have not touched on here for things like filled maps, background image maps, Polygon-Shaded Maps with ArcGIS Shapefiles, logistics routing/optimization and hurricane paths. If you still need more than what is available in the base Tableau map offering, several Tableau partners offer enhanced mapping solutions. Many of these and other great data visualizations are highlighted on my Inspirations web page.

Bottom line on Tableau maps, there is more to them than meets the eye. You can get exceptionally sophisticated with Tableau mapping to add location context within your Tableau analytic dashboards.