How do I Set Color Alerts and Targets in Tableau?

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This tutorial will teach you how to set color thresholds in Tableau. Color thresholds can alert your team when there are anomalies in the data, as well as highlight deltas in performance versus target.

One of the benefits of data visualization is arming the user with the ability to spot anomalies or trends in data at a glance, instead of having to comb through hundreds of rows or columns. A tool to make this process even faster is color-coding. Tableau allows users to assign thresholds when colors should appear or change, to alert the user that something is worth investigating in further detail.

Below is an example of a bar chart that shows the average days in stage, by interview stage. The color-coding indicates that the Lead stage is taking longer than the team would like, while Applicant, Screen, and Onsite are still within the range of acceptable times.


A possible action prompted from this graph would be to focus on applicants in Lead and try to move some of them to the next stage, while archiving the ones that are not relevant for the role. However, what if the team decides that 14 days is too long of a waiting period, and sets 7 days as the target for average days in stage? Based on this target, the numbers should start trending to yellow at a lower threshold.

1. Select "Edit" in the top bar


2. You will be taken into Edit mode in Tableau. Click on the graph you'd like to change color thresholds for, and select the "Go to Sheet" option.


3. This will take you to an editor page for the specific graph. Click on the drop-down arrow in the color legend box, and select "Edit Colours..."


4. A color editor will pop up. You can change the color palette here or create a new one. To change the number thresholds for the colors, make sure "Start" is checked.

Check "End" if you'd like to define the threshold when the color turns red, and "Center" if you'd like to define the threshold when the color turns yellow. If you choose "End," the center will automatically be calculated, and if you choose "Center," the End will automatically be calculated. You can also check both "Center" and "End" if you do not want the yellow color to be equidistant from the start and end (i.e. green is 0, yellow is 7, red is 30).


5. In our example, we want candidates to be in a stage for 7 days or less, so the "Center" threshold should be 7. The "End" date has been de-selected so Tableau can automatically calculate the "End."

The center number represents when performance is not ideal but is not a show stopper, and you'd like to be informed of the situation so you can monitor it. The end number should represent when a situation has gone critically wrong, and you would stop regular processes to action on the issue immediately.


6. After you've selected the correct range, close the editor and you will see the graph colors update. Choose the "save" option in the upper left-hand corner, then close the editor using the X in the upper right-hand corner.


7. All done! Your chart will be updated with your new number thresholds, and you can now see that candidates in Onsite should be also actioned on, based on the new team targets. You can also see that candidates in the Lead stage are now considered critical, and potentially re-assign team members to move candidates through that stage before working on candidates in Onsite.

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