Data visualization has become more and more essential for companies over the past 20 years. Many Business Intelligence tools have sprung up, trying to answer this need. Among these tools, Tableau and Google Data Studio stand out, bringing powerful and easy-to-use solutions for reporting and data visualization.
Beginners might think that Google is Google so their product is definitely going to be the best. However, anyone that has some experience in BI knows that Google Data Studio is a newer product, released only in 2016. In fact, Tableau has been the standard and the market leader for more than 5 years.
Main Differences between Google Data Studio vs Tableau
Web-based vs. Desktop
Tableau is primarily a desktop application. It does offer sharing and viewing capabilities through Tableau Online, Tableau Server and Tableau Public. However, only the desktop application has full functionality; most of the work is done on desktop and only then published to one or more of the above destinations. As a result, even the smallest change can be problematic and take a long time (users often prefer to accumulate a lot of small changes so that they can be synced all at once). Sharing reports in Tableau with another Tableau user within the organization is relatively simple, but sharing it with an external client can be a much more complicated task. You can download data to PDF or Excel but it’s not the ideal solution.
In contrast, Google Data Studio is a web-based tool; it is only available via the browser. This allows users to collaborate on a project and share it very easily. In addition, any small change can be made instantly. The downside: you’re dependent on a quality internet connection.
Tableau Public is a limited version of Tableau and is available for free. A Tableau Desktop license starts at $35/month for Personal Edition, and $70/month for Professional Edition.
Google Data Studio is free. Previously, users were able to create only five free reports, but Google has removed this limitation.
Data Connectors and Data Manipulation
Tableau connects to various data sources, including files, databases, and certain Google products such as Google Analytics, Google BigQuery, Google Cloud SQL and Google Sheets. It does not, however, offer access to Google products like AdWords, Attribution, or YouTube Analytics, but you can get access to these via third party tools.
Google Data Studio offers connectivity to Google data sources that include AdWords API, Attribution 360, BigQuery, DoubleClick Campaign Manager, Google Analytics, Google Sheets, and YouTube Analytics. It has also released a connector to the MySQL database.
Working with data
Tableau provides many options for preparing data for visualization. For example, you can hide columns, create groups of columns, split columns, pivot columns, and apply filters at source.
Google Data Studio does not currently offer data preparation.
Joining data sources
Tableau has data-joining capabilities that include inner, left, right, and full outer joins. It is possible to join multiple data sources and use the resulting data in Tableau visualizations.
Data Studio does not provide data joining capabilities. Datasets have to be built outside Data Studio and then brought in for visualization.
Using multiple data sources in a single dashboard or report
Sometimes you don’t want to join data – all you want is a single dashboard that includes charts that come from very different data sources. For example, you may want to see a graph of the performance of a certain app from Facebook PPC next to that of Google PPC, so that you can compare them.
In Tableau, you can connect to multiple data sources, create sheets with visualizations, and then add multiple sheets to a single dashboard.
Similarly, Data Studio also provides the functionality to add multiple data sources to a single report. Charts can then be created using these data sources.
Data source management
Tableau allows users to connect to and use multiple data sources in visualizations. However, if these are connected to the workbook, they can be difficult to manage. For example, if multiple data sources are added to a data visualization, it is hard to tell which ones are being used, and which are not.
Data Studio provides a data source management view that shows not only which data sources are included in the view, but also those that are not being used.
Working with Data and Visualizations
Tableau offers the following standard (drag and drop) visualizations:
• heat maps,
• highlighted tables,
• maps and filled maps,
• pie charts,
• horizontal/vertical bars,
• stacked bars,
• side-by-side bars,
• circle view,
• side-by-side circles,
• line charts,
• discrete line charts,
• dual axis lines,
• area charts,
• discrete area charts,
• combination charts,
• scatter plots,
• box-and-whisker plots,
• Gantt charts,
• bullet graphs,
• packed bubble charts.
It is also possible to create custom visualizations in Tableau, such as sankey diagrams, sunburst charts, etc.
Data Studio 360 offers:
• time series charts,
• bar charts,
• pie charts,
• scatter plots,
• bullet charts,
• area charts.
It is possible to modify existing data visualization types to some extent, such as making a pie chart look like a doughnut, but Google Data Studio is not as flexible as Tableau.
Both tools offer the standard aggregation functions, such as average, count, maximum, minimum, sum, and count distinct.
Data Studio offers 53 functions, including aggregations, arithmetic, date, geo, text and other functions.
Tableau offers number, text, date, type conversion, logical, aggregate, user, and other functions, as well as table calculations. In total, Tableau offers over 150 functions.
Data Studio and Tableau both offer filters. It is possible to filter data for each visualization individually, or to add a filter to the report to allow the end user to drill down into the data, if they wish to do so.
Tableau allows users to filter the entire dashboard by clicking on an individual data point. Data Studio does not offer this feature.
Selecting metrics and dimensions
Metrics and dimensions in Tableau are selected with drag-and-drop or via right-clicking and selecting ‘Add to sheet’.
Data Studio automatically selects the dimensions and metrics, based on the type of chart the user picks on the toolbar. Sometimes, this feature is helpful; more frequently, it actually limits you in what kind of chart you can use with what kinds of dimensions and metrics. Being unconventional is not always an option in Data Studio.
Documentation and tutorials
Both tools are fairly easy to grasp and start working with. Tableau has an extensive documentation and a long list of useful tutorials. Google Data Studio offers some documentation and a list of 6 tutorials on their support website.
Overall Conclusion – Google Data Studio vs Tableau
In conclusion, while Tableau is seen to offer better data visualization solutions in this comparison, Google has made impressive advances in reporting, to narrow the gap. Tableau’s strength lies in that it is the more complete and powerful tool for visual data discovery and visualization.
Meanwhile, Data Studio presents itself as a good solution for building beautiful reports that are easy to customize and share quickly.back to blog