Google Data Studio and Tableau are data visualization tools that help you understand your business so you can take action.
There are key differences between these two platforms that make them suitable for different depths of data, sources, and business sizes.
Choosing the right platform will provide you with the insights you need now, and scale up with your business as it grows. It’s all about logistics.
Here’s how to decide is Data Studio or Tableau is right for you.
1. Data connectors
Data visualization platforms use data connectors to import data feeds from various places (for example, from Google Analytics or CSV files).
If you can think of a platform that holds business data, there’s probably a third-party connector that will feed that data into Data Studio, Tableau, or both. We should try to avoid relying on too many third-party connectors though, as they can mean additional costs, and support from the creators can’t always be guaranteed.
Both platforms come with native data connectors that are fully integrated and supported. Native connectors with Google Data Studio are mainly limited to the Google platforms (e.g., Analytics, YouTube, Google Ads).
Tableau offers more integrations with branded platforms out of the box but not YouTube, Google 360 Suite, or Google Surveys.
The best advice is to make a plan for what platforms you need to bring data in from, check which platforms offer native connectors and which third-party add-ons you may need, then factor that cost in as you weigh them up.
Use these resources to check available data connectors:
Although Tableau’s library of third-party connectors is growing, Google Data Studio’s third-party connector library has a more active contributing community so if you’re struggling to find a connector to match your platform, I’d start your search there.
2. Data Storage
Google Data Studio is a completely cloud-based data visualization solution.
Tableau offers a cloud version of its product but is most often used as a desktop application. It supports on-premises data storage for companies with security policies that require this.
Tableau offers server or managed cloud deployment for its full-featured desktop software. There is also an online, browser-based version that is slightly watered down from the flagship enterprise installation in terms of features.
Tableau supports isolated on-premises data storage, which meets the demands of businesses with security policies that require this.
Where businesses don’t have an IT department, or where dashboards will only be managed by a few individuals, Data Studio or Tableau online are the perfect easy-to-deploy solutions.
3. Control and interactivity
Dashboard tools are aimed at two main audiences: creators and viewers. Data Studio and Tableau offer different levels of control for creators and different levels of interactivity for viewers.
For creators, Google Data Studio is as simple and intuitive as other Google products. Anyone can create a dashboard to display Google platform data with a readymade template in less than an hour.
Tableau has the advantage for seasoned data engineers when it comes to advanced charts and complex functions. For marketers, sales managers, and business owners, Data Studio is packed with all the functionality you could need.
For viewers, Tableau dashboards offer deep exploration where Google Data Studio is suited more to light interaction.
If you want to build self-serve analytics terminals where viewers can explore the data, filtering and expanding charts at a granular level, Tableau is may be right for you. If you want to deliver dashboards with limited client or colleague interactivity – for example, for agency or internal reporting – Data Studio is what you need. Viewers can to drill down on data periods and filter by data fields with dashboard level control but not as an exploratory console to chop and choose data.
Having said that – Tableau is notoriously difficult for sharing. For proper levels of interactivity, viewers will also need paid licences. As an enterprise solution, there is an enterprise cost to distributing this ability among stakeholders in medium-large businesses.
4. Structure and design
For dashboard design, structure, and branding, both platforms will give you the rudiments of what you need ‘out the box’.
Data Studio and Tableau give you a lot of customisation options in terms of look and feel. That’s a blessing and a curse. 90% of dashboards we see fail to follow basic principles of data visualization design.
If you’re not an experienced designer or a data analyst, I would recommend starting with a template. Both platforms offer native templates that you can adapt to your brand and purpose. If I were to put it in black and white, Tableau templates have more of a Microsoft style design whereas Google’s are very much in line with old school Google Analytics.
If you choose Google Data Studio and you’re looking for a template, it’s worth checking out our library. We offer a bunch of premium dashboard templates created by analysts and vetted by designers. You just add your logo and get started. You can, of course, play around with charts and filters to meet your specific needs and utilise the full power of the platform.
If your looking for a data visualization platform, Tableau or Data Studio could be right for you. Which one you choose will depend on a variety of factors:
|Native data connectors for Google platforms only||X|
|Native data connectors for variety of platforms but not all Google platforms||X|
|Wealth of third-party data connectors||X|
|Some third-party data connectors||X|
|Data blending between connectors||X||X|
|Cloud server deployment||X|
|On-premises server deployment||X|
|Perfect for individuals||X|
|Perfect for startups||X|
|Perfect for enterprise||X|
|Intuitive for creators||X|
|Intuitive for data engineers||X|
|Viewers have light interactivity||X|
|Viewers have exploratory control||X|
|Easy to share with clients/colleagues||X|
|Expensive to share full exploratory control with clients/colleagues||X|
|Customisable Dashboard design||X||X|
If you need help getting started with Data Studio, check out our Data Studio templates.