How to Use Google Data Studio (Examples Guide)

Image: Google

Google Data Studio helps you turn data into an image. As a free browser-based tool, all you need is an account, a data source, and the desire to create a data visualization to use Google Data Studio.

What can you do with Google Data Studio?

Google Data Studio can process huge amounts of data and produce compelling charts, but a well-crafted chart requires both accurate data and an appropriate choice of chart type. Inaccurate data doesn’t produce a graph that shows the truth, however you view it. Good data in a poorly chosen chart type can confuse people.

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For most people, an image conveys meaning in a way that raw data does not. For example, in a business, you can use it to analyze sales, cost, or research data. A website operator may use Google Data Studio to understand site visitor behavior, purchasing patterns, or ad performance. A social media manager could use Data Studio to show reach, engagement or conversions.

With reliable data displayed in a meaningful graph, Google Data Studio goes further, providing interactive controls and several separate sharing methods. Controls allow people to change various chart content, allowing a viewer to filter out certain fields or refine the chart to display data in a selected date range. And you can not only collaborate on Data Studio reports, just like you could collaborate on a Google spreadsheet, but also schedule reports to be emailed to people on a regular basis.

To get started with Google Data Studio, open in your browser. Then follow the process below to link a data source, create a chart, refine the view, add interactive control if needed, and then share your report.

Get started with Google Data Studio

Connect to data

First, you need data. When in Data Studio Create | . select Report, the system prompts you to select a data source, as shown in Image A. You can choose to add data with one of over 20 Google-provided Connectors, including sources such as Google Analytics, Google Sheets, BigQuery, YouTube Analytics, Tables by Area 120, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL or a .csv file you upload.

Image A

Select a data source to connect to. Options include Google Sheets, Google Analytics, .CSV files, or hundreds of other sources.

You can also select one of more than 630 Partner Connectors to add data sources ranging from app, advertising, social media and website analytics to accounting, CRM, real estate and time tracking. After choosing a connector, you may need to log into the resource and then select the specific dataset you want.

Whatever data source you choose, make sure that the underlying data is as reliable as possible. For example, if you link a Google spreadsheet that contains data, you can view at least some screens of data fields to understand the range of data in different fields. For numeric data, you can sort a column to see the low and high numbers to identify data that may be out of range and may need to be reviewed, modified, or discarded. Reliable data is needed to create a true graph.

Choose a chart type

Then select a chart type to use to display the data. The more than 35 species (Figure B) listed include tables, time series, bar, column, line, area, pie, donut, scatter, bubble, pivot tables, scorecard, treemap, gauge and cards. Once you have selected a chart type, you can drag and drop data fields from the right side of the screen into the area below the chart title, then adjust and configure the options and sliders as needed.

Figure B

Choose from a wide variety of chart types.

When selecting a chart type, consider the data and message you want to convey. Does the selected chart type emphasize your intent without explanation? If a person unfamiliar with your intent views the chart, what do they initially think of your intent? Don’t try to make a chart accomplish multiple posts. Instead, try to convey a single concept with a chart – and convey it with the simplest chart possible.

Refine the display

While Data Studio offers a very useful set of themes and default design choices, in many cases a few refinements can help amplify both the content and intent of your diagram. In addition to labels and chart gridlines, you can add an image, text, lines, or shapes to a page, and customize chart fonts, text colors, background, and borders.

As you modify items, you can make changes that enhance understanding of the data. For example, in the graph showing both the maximum and minimum temperatures, I changed the line colors to red and blue, respectively, as shown in Figure C. These refer to the common cultural association in the US of the color red with warm and the color blue with cold.

Figure C

Adjust various chart style settings to emphasize your point.

Add controls

Data Studio allows you to place controls that allow people who access your page to adjust settings. This adds an interactive element that helps people filter and experiment with different settings, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the data and the content of the chart.

As shown in Figure D, available controls include items such as drop-down list, slider, checkbox, and data range controls. Any of these can be placed anywhere on the page, but make sure your control placement doesn’t obscure your chart. Remember that as selections change, various chart elements will change.

Figure D

Add controls to give people the ability to change the map view in a variety of ways.

Share with people

Just as you can collaborate with people on a Google Doc, you can also add people to collaborate on Data Studio diagrams with the Share button, as shown in Digits E. Select Share | Invite people, then add email addresses and choose whether you want to give people view or edit access.

Digits E

Collaborate, download, link to, embed your report or schedule to email it regularly.

If you prefer, you can also manage link sharing when you want to make a Data Studio document available to a larger group of people. The Share menu also provides options to download a report or get embed code, which allow you to embed Data Studio diagrams elsewhere on the web, such as on a Google site.

The share | However, the email delivery scheduling option can be one of the more interesting and useful ways to share reports. It allows you to schedule regular delivery of a Data Studio diagram to people on recurring dates and times. If you have associated a chart with a data source that is changing, this option allows you to schedule selected report pages regularly and send them to people.

What is your experience with Data Studio?

If you use Google Data Studio, which chart types do you use most often? What data do your Data Studio reports display? If you include controls, what kinds of filters or customizations do people interacting with your charts find most helpful? Have you tried using Google Data Studio to email scheduled reports to people? Call or message me on Twitter (@awolber) to let me know how you use Google Data Studio.

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