Choosing the data visualization tool that’s right for you, your company, or your clients can be overwhelming. From financial considerations to data integrations to the visualizations themselves, there are several factors to consider. Though there are a number of tools available in the market, we’ll take a look at two of the most common data visualization tools, Google Data Studio (GDS) and Tableau, and how they compare by price and function.
For some companies, cost is the only factor that matters when weighing their options for dashboarding. Like many Google products, Google Data Studio is free to all users, which can be a big plus for companies on a very tight budget. Tableau, on the other hand, does have varying costs associated with the product. A single Tableau Creator account will cost about $70 per month (per user). Not all users will need full creator access, so Tableau offers Explorer and Viewer level users for $42 and $15 per month per user.
Another important factor to consider is what data you will utilize in your reporting/visualizing, and where it comes from. As you can imagine, Google Data Studio offers seamless, direct integrations to many Google products like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Campaign Manager 360, Search Console, and many more. In addition to that, GDS also offers some partner connections – some direct and some via Supermetrics. Overall, the library of connectors seems somewhat robust for a free tool; however, Tableau offers a great deal of options for direct and database connectivity including Google products, Salesforce, Snowflake, and many more.
Another important factor is data prep. Generally speaking, both tools perform optimally when the majority of data clean up is conducted prior to porting into GDS or Tableau. That said, both tools allow for data joining and filtering within the platform if need be, but much of GDS’s data prep ends there. GDS does allow for basic data joins, custom field calculations, and custom filtering. However, if a dataset is too large for GDS, it will either significantly slow down the speed of the report, or GDS will reject the dataset altogether. Conversely, Tableau’s strength over GDS comes in its ability to process and visualize large sets of data. Another feature Tableau provides in the way of data prep is easy data groupings, in addition to calculated fields and data joining (which are also available in GDS).
Learning Curve & Visuals
Google Data Studio’s greatest strength is in its user-friendly interface. It’s easy to use, and prominently displays the major elements in order to quickly pull together a single visual (dimensions, metrics, sorting, filtering, etc). Additionally, Google offers a pretty standard list of fairly rigid visualization templates (bar charts, line charts, pie charts, tables, etc). Visuals in GDS are somewhat limited in customization and for that reason, learning how to create visuals and dashboards in GDS does not take quite as long to master. Conversely, Tableau offers a very robust and customizable interface when it comes to making unique visualizations. For beginners, Tableau does offer quick-help visual creators to support newer users through basic visualization. However, Tableau also allows users to customize a great deal of specific details within a single visual, and ultimately allows for creation of non-standard visuals as well like data plots, sectional radars, button selectors, and table opening and collapsing. That being said, the vastness of Tableau’s customization ability creates a steeper learning curve for users.
All in all, choosing between the two visualization tools above comes down to the ongoing reporting needs of the company as well as the immediate needs for a single report or dashboard. What’s good for some, might not be for others so it is important to weigh the above factors and assess how they fit within your business’s needs.
|Google Data Studio
- Several direct connections to Google products
- Some connections to various, non-Google platforms
- Several direct connections to various platforms including Salesforce, Amazon, Snowflake, etc
- Some Google connections (Google Analytics, Drive, BigQuery, Ads, etc)
- Good for smaller data sets
- Custom calculated fields
- Custom filters
- Basic data joins
- Good for larger data sets
- Custom calculated fields
- Custom filters
- Data joins
- Content groupings
|Learning Curve & Visuals
- Shorter learning curve
- User-friendly interface
- Standard visualizations available
- Rigid visual templates
- Limited customization
- Steeper learning curve
- Very customizable visualizations
- Ability to create non-standard visuals