Tableau Tutorial – Custom Navigation Menu

By Jon Elordi

Clients find dashboards intimidating. It’s very frustrating. It forces me to focus on user experience or UX instead of making awesome graphs. But the point of a dashboard is to convey information in a condensed manner as to be easily digested. It’s not just awesome graphs. So I add a navigation menu to many of my dashboards. It’s a quick and simple way to increase the UX of a dashboard.

tableau menu

Tableau comes with a default tab structure. Which for the longest time, I thought was good enough. But if you don’t have clients let me tell you now, they’re morons (If you’re a client reading this, it’s not you. It’s one of my other clients). So this default tab has been complained about, and called, “confusing.” Even though it’s not. It lacks style. But it’s very straightforward.

A way to fix this is to create your own navigation menu. Using Tableau Actions and Workbooks you can create your own menu. This will easily increase the UX of your dashboard. I highly recommend making your own navigation menus. Mostly because they’re very easy to make, and people love them. It’s a low-hanging fruit that will make people think you’re smarter than you actually are.

The finished workbook with nav examples can be found here.

Let’s make some navigation menus.

Nav menus are easy. The overall gist is to create a bunch of text-based worksheets, style them, and then apply some Tableau actions.

Orange Tableau Nav Menu

The Worksheets

These worksheets will contain the text that will show up in the nav button. In my examples, the words are “Dashboard One,” “Dashboard Two,” and “Dashboard Three.” You’re going to need to make some duplicates as well. For this example, I made three base designs, and a highlighted version to indicate the current dashboard. In total, it’s six worksheets.

To do this we’ll need to create three calculated fields. One for every dashboard we want to link to.

sub heading navigation menu tableau

You’ll want to create the other calculated fields in the same way. I’m not going to show those because I hope you get it.

Once the calculated fields are created, drag one onto text on the marks card. This is how you make your button. Do this six times. So when you’re done you’ll have six worksheets. Here’s how I named mine, and it should be self-explanatory what I did: dashboard1-base, dashboard2-base, dashboard3-basedashboard1-highlightdashboard2-highlight, dashboard3-highlight.

tableau dashboard

From here we just want to style it. For this Nav, I decided to just go with a blue background(#005173) with white text. And underlining the text to highlight the current dashboard. The worksheets with “highlight” in the name are the ones with underlined text.


Blue Tableau Nave
Quick Style walkthrough. If you have more questions on this feel free to reach out on social media.

  1. Right-click the background of the workbook. Select “format.” change the background color to #005173.
  2. I used the tiled method for this nav. Go to “layout” and set the inner and outer padding to “0.” This way they look like one bar, instead of three buttons.
  3. Edit the text box of the worksheet. Click on “text” on the marks card and then the three dots. And change…
  4. Font = Arial
  5. Bolded
  6. Font-size = 12
  7. Font-color: White.
  8. For the highlighted worksheet make the text underlined

Secret Sauce – Tableau Actions

Once you’ve got the nav in place and styled, the last step is to add actions. This is what will actually make the navigation menu work, so it’s important.

To add actions, be on your dashboard and select “Dashboard” > “Actions.” Or you can press Ctrl+Shift+D. a menu will pop up like the one below.

Tableau Dashboard

Click on “Add Action,” then select “Go to Sheet…”

Go To Sheet Tableau

This window is where you’ll configure the action.

  1. You can name it whatever you want. I went with “GoToDashTwo.” I wanted to keep the naming intuitive. This action when activated will go to Dashboard Two.
  2. Select the sheet. In this case, it’s dash2-base. So when you click on the base version of dash2-base it will take you to the second Dashboard.
  3. Make sure “Select” is selected. We want the switch to a new dashboard to happen when you click on the worksheet, not hover over it.
  4. Select the destination dashboard. In this case “Dashboard 2”
  5. Click “OK”

Tableau Nav

You’ll want to repeat this process for all the buttons on each dashboard. It’s a tedious ten minutes that will pay off. As for the highlighted nav buttons, you don’t need to apply actions to those. You don’t need to take the user back to the dashboard they’re already on.

I created a sample dashboard showing a couple of different styling options. It can be found at my tableau public profile which can be found here. If you have any questions or if I glossed over something, please leave a comment below.