This blog was originally posted to the Piraeus Consulting blog on March 14th, 2016 and may contain out-of-date information.
At their October user conference, Tableau unveiled their new visualization app: Vizable. Vizable is built for the iPad and promises to empower non-professionals to represent spreadsheets visually and to manipulate data in easy-to-use charts and graphs. Dave Story, Tableau’s Vice President of Mobile and Strategic Growth, positioned this app as a handy tool for the masses, saying, “It’s for anybody who has a tablet, data and questions.”
So, what exactly is Vizable? How is it useful? Here are five things that you should know about Tableau Vizable:
1. To accommodate a broader audience, the functionality is limited in comparison to Tableau Mobile.
Rather than being targeted at BI professionals, Vizable is built for non-professionals who may never have looked at personal data before. The potential users that Dave Story mentioned include exercisers who can import workout data from a FitBit activity tracker, teachers analyzing student performance data, and small business owners tracking their sales.
Of course, the app may also come in handy in the business intelligence world. However, those of us who are more savvy with Tableau might find some of the features of Vizable a bit disappointing. For example, the visual representations are limited to bar, line, and table graphs, and the tool is not necessarily designed to handle enterprise-level data volumes.
That said, there are some features that show consideration for those more comfortable with data. First, some of Vizable’s visualizations are not available in Tableau, but those can be imported into Tableau. Also, Vizable offers a built-in animation engine, which (when turned on) shows users how each manipulation causes the next result.
Since the speed of the animation depends on the speed of the user’s fingers on the screen, the tool will also work quickly for people who are comfortable jumping and flicking through data.
2. Vizable is not built to replace other tools for the iPad, like Excel or Numbers, but to leverage them.
Excel and Numbers for iPad are the big players in terms of holding data on an iPad, but those tools don’t have visualization functionality. Enter Vizable. It will pull data from those core database apps and present it in a way that’s visually pleasing and easily consumable.
3. It’s easy to get started, intuitive, and interactive.
To create a visualization, users can just tap and hold a spreadsheet on their iPad screen, and the data will be sent to Vizable to start interpreting. Vizable will read the spreadsheet or .csv to determine the key categories and present an initial view, so the user has a visualization in front of them from the start. The graphs and charts generated by Vizable are intuitive and interactive and presented in easy-to-read formats with headers.
Also, the visualizations allow for smooth, simple transitions by utilizing iPad gestures. Zooming in, by moving your thumb and forefinger apart on a graph, reveals more granular data. Zooming out, by moving your thumb and forefinger closer together, shows the larger graphical representation of the data. Swiping and dragging provide additional functionalities. An iPad user who is new to Tableau will feel like a pro in no time.
4. Visualizations are easy to share, but the shared image is static.
Once a user builds a visualization with data, he or she can share it via email, text or social media from directly within the app. However, although sharing is easy, the shared file is only a static image of the visualization. On the upside, according to Story, it’s possible that down the line a paid service will allow the option to send a graph that could then be manipulated by the recipients.
5. It’s free.
While paid features may be added later on, the app is currently completely free. You can download Vizable from the App Store, and it comes with sample files for experimenting.
With Vizable, Tableau builds off Apple’s data apps and gesture capabilities to provide data visualization on the fly for a variety of users. Hopefully, Story will follow through on his promises of developing add-ons that will enhance this app for BI professionals.