#MakeoverMonday Week 2019-24 Diary

In celebration of pride month, this week’s #MakeoverMonday looks at the question, “Is it wrong for same-sex adults to have sexual relations?” The original visualization by GSS Data Explorer (below), tracks the progress over time of the percentage of the population to answer that it is “Not wrong at all,” broken down by four different age groups. It’s going to be a shorter post this week, so let’s get right to it.

originalStep 1. What Works and What Does Not Work?

Since we’re trending the percentages over time, the original line chart is a logical decision. However, there are a few things that don’t quite work for me. After downloading the data, I noticed there are several years missing and that doesn’t appear to be called out anywhere on the visualization. With data missing between the starting and ending points, a slope chart would be another way to effectively show the change over time. A slope chart would also prevent the lines from overlapping and crossing one another so often. Slope chart or line chart, the colors in the original viz could also be improved upon and I know somewhere where you can find a ton of awesome color palettes…thanks Neil!! Lastly, I would have labeled the ends of the lines…either with the value or with the age group. Labeling the ends of the lines with the age group would allow us to get rid of the color legend that is forcing us to look back and forth between the legend and the graph, to see which color represents which age group.

Step 2. Know and Understand the Data

The data set this week was super clean, with the exception of some missing years like I mentioned earlier. Once opened in Tableau, a quick pivot brought the years and their values into rows as opposed to columns. So after pivoting, we end up with a tall data set instead of the original wide data set. Now we’re ready to head into Tableau to begin building our visualization.


Step 3. Choosing the Right Chart Type

Earlier I mentioned that a slope chart would be a good way to visualize this data set, given the fact that several years were missing in the data. I wanted to show the difference from the first year (1973) to the last year (2018), without showing any of the data in between those two years. But, I also wanted to show that, despite considerable growth over this current 45-year period, each age group was still very far away from 100%. So, with this in mind, I began by building a dot plot that looked like the below chart. This was a good start, but now I needed to show the gaps in each age group. For instance, for the 18-34 year old age group, I wanted to highlight the 71% to 100% section.


So, I changed the colors of the dots in the dot plot, as I would later tie their gray color into my title. Next, I thickened the line connecting the two dots, which, if you recall, represent 1973 and 2018 and ended up with this. I liked how simple the visualization was to read, each age group has increased its percentage of the population answering our question “Not wrong at all” by quite a lot, over the years. However, those are still huge gaps to reach 100% and it is quite disappointing to think that such a large portion of our society is this close minded. So, I wanted to make sure to capture the gaps that still remain.


To do this, I would leverage Tableau’s transparent sheets as well as a video from Andy Kriebel. I would use Andy’s tip to create a rounded bar chart, but instead of starting the bars at 0, I wanted mine to start at the 1973 value for each age group, to ensure they didn’t extend to the left of the gray dot plot, shown above. Here’s how my worksheet was set up to achieve this, you can view Andy’s video above to master the steps required to get there. Ok, so we had two worksheets, now we just needed to build the dashboard and layer one worksheet on top of the other.


Step 4. Finishing Touches

We didn’t need a big dashboard for this, so I just set mine to a fixed size of 1200px by 500px and probably could have gone 800px wide to be honest. I tiled my title text box, the sheet with the blue rounded bar charts and my footer text boxes and then laid the gray, thickened dot plot on top of the blue rounded bars. If you’ve never used transparent sheets before, the key is to float the top sheet on top of the bottom sheet and set the size and position to exactly match the bottom sheet. Also, in order for the sheet to be transparent, the background must be set to None. Here’s how my floating, transparent sheet was set up.


The last thing to do was add the title, where I tied in the colors to match those in the visualization. Then the information in the footer and some tooltips and we’re done! I was short on time this week, but still feel this quick visualization provides a good look into not only how far each age group has come, but also how far there still is to go, on this subject. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed and were able to take away something useful. Have a great day!!


One thought on “#MakeoverMonday Week 2019-24 Diary”

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing your thought process, this is really helpful for people like me who are getting in to the realm of data visualisation.

    Wondering why did you decide to go with rounded bar chart here, as the end of the bar for age group 65+ (2%) in 1973 looks very close to 0%. It’s visually appealing, but I find it misleading to a certain extent. Would you recommend rounded bar charts as a best practice?

    Another question, if you were to include ‘years’ as a dimension and show a line chart instead, what would you do to overcome the missing data issue?



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