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How to Create Tableau Heatmap

Updated: Apr 29

Tableau heatmaps

Tableau heatmap is a visualization where marks on the view are represented using color. And as the density of records increases per mark, a more intense color is displayed (heating up). When displayed as a crosstab – it forms a highlight table.

Heatmaps can also be displayed in geographical maps to show trends and patterns (density maps).

Heatmaps Vs Highlight tables

Looking at the Tableau Show Me tab, the process of creating a heatmap requires,

  • One or more dimensions against

  • One or two measures.

While creating a highlight table requires,

  • One or more dimensions against

  • One measure.

Therefore, we can say the key distinction between a heatmap, and a highlight table is - for heatmaps you can encode marks with two measures (e.g., you can encode a mark using size and color), while for highlight tables you can only encode a mark using one measure i.e., color.

Step by step guide on how to create heatmap in Tableau

First let us build the view layout,

In this case using Sample-Superstore data, I will build my layout as follows,

  • Drag Order Date to the columns shelf.

  • Drag product Sub-Category to the rows shelf.

  • Drag Sales to the text shelf.

Tableau cross tab
  • Under Show Me Tab, select ‘Heat Maps’

Tableau show me tab

Executing this we’ve.

The above view shows marks (inform of square) encoded using Size. Note you can change the mark shapes under marks card (for this case am going to change the mark shape from square to circle) and encode the marks with another measure (in this case profit).

  • Changing marks to circles

  • And adding Profit to color shelf

Example of a heatmap in Tableau

With this view (analysis), large circles and intense colored circles would mean the Sub-category made more Sales and profits in that particular year. While Large circles with light color would mean the Sub-category made more sales but was less profitable.

Note: To avoid confusion among data users, its good to state clearly in your viz what represents size and color.

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