Using Mapfluence to Customize Your Viz | Urban Mapping Blog

Posted by on 2013-10-07

Using Mapfluence to Customize Your Viz

Why were we so enthusiastic to be at the Tableau Customer Conference this year? Because we are the proud providers of the basemaps and geographic data layers displayed with each map viz in Tableau, and it is exciting to see how much the Tableau community loves maps. Our main message this year was this: Mapfluence has a rich set of features and parameters that you can access with minor tweaks to your map card.

For our advanced mapping session, we partnered with Leigh Fonseca of Fonseca Data Science. Leigh has a great track record with Tableau, and has a knack for solving tricky data viz problems. Leigh helped us identify the challenges users most often identify when mapping in Tableau, and we pondered how we can solve them using our powerful platform for data + maps.

Here are some examples of what we came up with:

1. Create “layers” on your maps. Leigh demonstrated some best practices for parameterizing metrics on your map, and demonstrated how you can layer your metrics via a simple radio button.

Tableau Parameterized Map

Tableau Parameterize Your Map Metrics

2. Limit the map to your area of interest without losing a dimension. If your data focuses on a particular region, like a US state, it’s distracting and irrelevant to show neighboring regions. One clever solution to this problem is to turn off the base map and filter a filled map to show just the regions you want. This is called a dual axis map. The name refers to the fact that as with a dual axis chart, you are scaling one layer of your data with one axis, in this case the geographic coordinates of your area of interest, and the other layer of your data with another, in this case whatever filled map or mark you want to show on the map.

If you go this route, you may quickly realize the drawback, which is that you used up a dimension of your visualization for showing your base map. Now you only have one dimension left for your data. The alternative is to modify your map card so that it only shows the area of interest. That way you can use all your dimensions for data. Check out and stay tuned for step-by-step tutorials on how you can make a map like this one:


Limit a Tableau map to a single state using dual axis

By modifying the configuration file that controls your map card, you can limit the extent of the map, change border and fill colors, change the transparency of a particular layer, and add additional overlays:


Limit Tableau Map using a custom TMS file

3. Bring new geographic boundaries into Tableau. We understand there is a lot of demand for this within the Tableau community. Urban Mapping sources and licenses all sorts of geographic boundaries as part of our product offerings, including census and administrative boundaries from countries worldwide, proprietary marketing boundaries, transportation and freight systems, and neighborhoods worldwide. We can embed boundaries too complex to display in Tableau directly into the base map you see in Tableau so that they are also available for reference. Where the scale is not prohibitive, we can also help you create custom geocodes based on any public boundaries or based on the sales or regulatory territories you use in-house. For example, we can provide you with DMA boundaries licensed from Nielsen that you can use to visualize your sales and marketing data:


Custom DMA Shapefiles in Tableau

4. Use satellite imagery as your base map. While our licensing agreements prevent us from distributing them freely, we can serve high resolution satellite imagery directly into Tableau. This is particularly useful for certain types of operations analytics, where you need to be able to see the land use, buildings, or roads underneath your map viz. For the example below, we used three years of Washington DC crime data to calculate the number of incidents per census block, and then varied the transparency on a scale of zero to 889. Additional details about the incidents are shown as points with tooltips in Tableau, and the data can be combined in a dashboard with other charts and graphs.


Custom Map Overlays in Tableau

6. Custom sales, marketing, or regulatory regions. One thing we’ve heard over and over from Tableau customers is that they would like to be able to draw or create regions that are customized to the use case of their business or organization. We have a tool we think you’ll really like in the works, but in the meantime, Leigh developed a dashboard that calculates metrics based on custom groupings of countries.


Creating custom regions in Tableau

We put together a tool for generating center points for each of those regions, so that you can color your map and crunch your numbers in Tableau, and then attach tooltip details and charts on your imported geocodes that we hope to release soon. Just click the points, label them, and email yourself the file so that you can import it into Tableau.


Urban Mapping Territory Marker

Due to popular demand, we’ve also included the presentation

via Using Mapfluence to Customize Your Viz | Urban Mapping Blog.

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