At the beginning of 2019, I panicked as I watched Google Data Studio delete elements on my dashboard. In seconds, my dashboard became something almost unrecognizable. Where were my headers? Why did the colors change? Where did my charts go?! I hoped somehow it would magically reappear. However, I soon realized I was stuck with this new—almost unrecognizable—dashboard.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later, Google announced they released a bug fix causing report-level components to no longer be saved with reports under specific circumstances. This explained why my dashboard had suddenly changed. While that was the most severe incident, it wasn’t the last incident. Every so often, I will notice a strange update to my dashboards and go on to learn Google released a new feature.
Below are some of my favorite updates released by Google this year that might have caused mysterious changes to your dashboard. This expanded functionality within Data Studio makes for a more robust and intuitive dashboard experience—yes, please!
Users can now easily format charts and tables in Data Studio. Users can resize table columns to auto adjust by holding down the shift key and double clicking the column line. Data in tables can be aligned left, center, or right. Users can set the font size of chart axis labels and data labels for bar, line, scatter, and area charts. Additionally, missing data can be shown as blank instead of as 0 within charts. These updates make for better and easier-to-read data visuals.
Why do I like it? It allows for a cleaner dashboard design that simplifies data interpretation. I also like it because it supports my belief that data design is equally as important as the data itself.
The new version history feature keeps a history of changes in your Data Studio, allowing you to see different versions of the report. In the version history, you can see the date and time the version was created, plus the username who made the edits. This feature should prevent you from needing to restart a dashboard from scratch—but don’t depend on it exclusively just yet. I’ve noticed some instances where the version history disappears for some dashboards. Making a copy is still the most reliable backup method.
Why do I like it? I like having the peace of mind that I can recover a dashboard if something happens. Sometimes I make a mistake and other times a bug fix does. Either way, I feel better knowing I will never need to start over from scratch.
This new feature finally allows users to control custom rolling date ranges. You can set reports for the last n days/weeks/months, etc., fixed to current day or fixed to prior date, calculate on minus n or plus n days, as well as custom timeframes such as days, weeks, months, quarters, and years.
Why do I like it? It improves flexibility for automating reporting cadence. I can set rolling date ranges within charts that are different than the report level rolling date range. This new flexibility allows my dashboards to automatically update trended views without my assistance.
Users can now compare custom date ranges within charts, which allows you to set a comparison date range as a rolling date.
Why do I like it? Unique rolling date ranges give me an accurate comparison for benchmarking purposes in charts. It reduces the amount of effort to provide a comparison analysis.
Users can now turn their charts into interactive filters by clicking a dimension value in one chart to filter other charts on the page by the selected value.
Why do I like it? It enables end users to ask questions and find their own answers within the report. If I see an unusual spike in a chart, I can easily isolate the data point to figure out what is driving the change. This feature advances data studio a step closer to becoming a tool for the end user instead of just a report.
This new feature allows users to provide more details in charts by drilling down from a higher level or drilling up from a lower level.
Why do I like it? It reduces the numbers of charts I need to include in a dashboard. This enables me to provide a cleaner and more connected visual analysis in my dashboards.
This new feature allows users to hide specific pages in their dashboard from the viewer.
Why do I like it? It simplifies the process of analyzing data and finding meaningful insights. It allows me to dive into data in different views that I don’t need the end user to see, but need to see for myself when providing greater context to my insights.
Data Studio has been a great addition to Google’s suite of tools, and though its constant stream of updates can cause glitches, the new features have been worth it. I look forward to what’s in store for the future of Data Studio and its report capabilities. In the meantime, take advantage of all the beneficial updates highlighted here.