5 Awesome Things to Embed with URL Actions

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Posted by Jewel Loreeon June 24, 2015

URL actions are one of the most powerful tools for creating uniquely interactive dashboards in the Tableau Public author’s tool box. I’m constantly surprised with all the creative uses that people find for them. One thing that I think is great about them is that they can add all kinds of multimedia that can add additional context that can really help people understand your viz even more. Let’s take a look at some of the innovative things Tableau Public authors have done with URL actions:

1. The Basic: Display and change an image hosted online

There’s a lot of different ways to incorporate images into dashboards: as dashboard objects, background images, custom shapes, or, as Peter Gilks has done here, as web objects. The advantage of using a web object is that you can set a URL action to change the picture. Here, clicking on a bar displays that skyscraper’s image. This provides great context and using a web object saved Peter the hassle of dealing with all those custom shapes. Peter explains how this is accomplished in Use Case 4 of his excellent Rough Guide to Dashboard Actions.

2. Watch them be amazed: embed and change youtube videos

When I made this dashboard about Drum Corps International (DCI) I realized that many (non-geeky) people had no idea what I was talking about. Embedding a youtube video was a great way to provide some context about what DCI actually is. Even better, I dug up videos of each corps so that you can compare their style, as well as videos for the top scoring shows of all time so that the viewer can see what made them so magical. Ben Jones has an easy to follow tutorial on how to implement this on DataRemixed.

3. Take it to the streets: add a Google street view widget

If you are making a viz about something location based, adding in a Google street view or satellite map can really add some good context about what you are looking at. For example, in this viz about graffiti in Brooklyn, adding the street view enables the user to see what spots keep getting hit and often gets to see some of the graffiti. This is a slightly more advanced technique than a simple URL action, but Nelson Davis has some great info about how it works.

4. Save them the trouble of Googling it: add a Wikipedia page

This use of URL actions comes from Clara Siegel who embedded Wikipedia pages into a dashboard to provide more information about the dinosaurs in her viz. When you are working with data on a topic that a lot of people might not know enough about, a good wiki page can really help. Another quick tip: if you don’t have space for a whole webpage like Clara’s viz, try using the mobile version of the site which will fit in a much smaller dashboard object!

5. Let them hear it: adding sounds or music to your dashboard

A big reason why this excellent dashboard from Shine Pulikartha won the Wiki Data Viz Contest was his innovative use of URL actions to change sound files that played a narration. Through his narration, this viz becomes almost an entire course on French Impressionism. He hosted his sound files on Google Drive and linked to them that way, but people have also had success with Soundcloud and Spotify.

Embedded content not only makes your dashboard more richly interactive and memorable, it also adds valuable context to the data you are analyzing. Do you have any other cool tricks you like to use URL actions for? Tweet me

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