Creating a Simple Motion Chart in Tableau

Ever wonder how to create a dynamic chart that compares several indicators over time? Chances are if you clicked on this blog post, then the answer is yes. Motion charts are nothing more than animated bubble charts that show data using the x-axis, y-axis, and the size and color of the bubble. However, what makes the motion charts incredibly useful is their ability to display changes over time by showing movement within the space as well as changes in the color/size of the bubble.

Why use Motion Charts?

  1. To incorporate multiple dimensions of data simultaneously thereby revealing more interesting stories in the data
  2. To show the individual elements as well as high level patterns
  3. To make viewers say “Ooooooo, that’s pretty”

Motion charts introduce the time-dimension element to a chart that would otherwise only represent a snapshot of what was occurring at a given time. They demonstrate the ability to see big picture patterns that develop from point to point while also stressing the individual elements being presented. They capture the viewer’s attention by incorporating different colors and movements, thus bringing life to the presentation.

How to make a basic Motion Chart:
Once you’ve extracted your data and create a new sheet, drag and drop your time dimension (in example it’s the order date) into the Columns and Pages area.

Then click on the drop down arrow on one of the dimensions and select a time frame (in the example, I choose Quarter). Repeat for the other dimension as well. After that drag and drop the measure you are using into the Rows area; in my example I use sales which Tableau automatically measures as a SUM function. You may change function by clicking on the drop down arrow like you did for the dimensions in the Pages and Columns area, scroll down and hover your mouse over “measure(SUM)”, and select the function you want to use; I chose to stick with the SUM function because I want to measure Total Sales for each quarter over several years.

Check the box next to Show History and then click on the drop down arrow next to it. Under “Marks to Show History For” select “All”. Then under “Show”, select “Both”. Selecting “Marks” shows only the points if that’s what you want, and selecting “Trails” shows only the line.

Finally, click on the little play button next to the stop icon above “Show History” to watch your masterpiece in action! Experiment with the different variables and options to change the colors, speed, patterns, and much more. Make sure to give your sheet a name and add it to your dashboard. Then publish it online on the Tableau Public Server to share it with everyone!





About Pradheeth R

"Data is the new oil? No, data is the new soil." - David McCandless, TEDGlobal 2010 Tableau Data Scientist/Analyst at Novedea Systems. Southern Methodist University graduate with a double major in Economics and Psychology.

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