“Small-Multiples/Callout” Viz


When each little chart within your small multiples chart (aka trellis, aka tile chart) contains too much detail to be fully absorbed from a distance, it can be helpful to incorporate a “Callout” view into your viz.

The Issue

Most small multiple charts I’ve seen contain the labels right in each little chart. This is totally great for a lot of chart types. But it may not always be practical or desired depending on the type of little chart you want to make. In the case below, I wanted to use highlight tables, and so adding labels would cause too much clutter as well as cover up some of the marks.

And, since each little chart could contain up to 400 marks (8 rows x 50 columns), I wanted the user to interact with a larger version of the little chart.

How to build the “Small-Multiples/Callout” Viz

I started by making the small multiples view using Chris Love’s technique outlined by Ryan Sleeper. Each of the small multiples was a country.

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(Bonus: You can choose the order of the small multiples by editing the table calculations on the X-axis and Y-axis pills.)

By choosing Custom Sort you can select the measure and the aggregation of your choice. I chose to sort by the sum of the index score for across all of the years chosen by the viewer. This means the order will change depending on the year(s) selected. It appears that Tableau sorts ties alphabetically.

I then duplicated this sheet and filtered for a single country to create the callout.

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Putting these into a dashboard I had:

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Next, the callout needed to update to whatever small multiple the user clicked on. I could do that by making a dashboard action that acted on the country dimension, but I had a bigger problem. Hovering over each small multiple would pickup every mark. To get around this, I duplicated the small multiples view again, removed the dimensions from columns and rows, set the country pill on the marks shelf to Text, and deleted the label.

Then I pulled this sheet onto the dashboard and floated it exactly over the small multiples view. This way, the tool tip and clicking would be acting on this “label” sheet and not the small multiples sheet.

The Resolution

This option goes well with the Small-Multiples/Callout viz since it eliminates the problem of the mouse picking up all the marks, and it brings the user’s attention to the Callout where they can then interact with all of the marks there.

You can interact with the viz and download the workbook here.

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