Context is key
First and foremost, make sure the map you choose offers the right amount of context for your visualization. You don’t want to end up with too much visual clutter that distracts readers from focusing on the data. Let’s check out some examples with the built-in Tableau styles and some custom Mapbox maps.
This dashboard by Ann Jackson explores urban forests in New York City. It looks clean and sharp, and provides just enough context. Tableau’s Light base map is adjusted to show only the land cover and streets, letting the data shine.
On the other hand, when a map needs to be the most important visualization on the dashboard, it will need something extra to make it pop. Consider adding relevant colors, layers, and text to your map, or design a custom base Dashboards with Maps with Mapbox.
Let the data stand on its own
A good visualization focuses the reader’s attention on the data, not the background, so occasionally it helps to let spatial data speak for itself, without a base map. When working with familiar locations and shapes like all counties in a state, or all countries in a continent there’s likely enough spatial awareness to remove the base Dashboards with Maps.
Use a map as a filter
Similar to using a second viz as a legend, you can also think about how a map can serve as a filter to facilitate exploration on your dashboard. Geographic shapes can be better filters than dropdown lists of text. They provide a better visual cue of the selected region and they also allow people to easily select neighboring regions of interest for deeper exploration. This dashboard makes great use of a small map, used as a filter, between the two countries. It’s a graphic element that fits in with the design and it’s a visual reminder of the relative locations of the highlighted countries.
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10 Ways to Add Value to Your Dashboards with Maps