With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics and much of the industry’s focus on Google Analytics 4, you’d be forgiven if data visualisation techniques and embellishments in Looker Studio hasn’t been at the forefront of your mind. Thankfully, it’s never far from our minds, so let’s take a look at a key update.
One of the most frequently used widgets in Looker Studio are scorecards. You won’t find many dashboards that don’t have these top-level metric summaries; they are straightforward, to-the-point, and simple to create. They are quite a bit more robust than you might think on first impression though – there are plenty of additional options to customise scorecards, whether it’s designing or formatting these in a different fashion, adding some additional detail or context, or visualising the data itself.
A scorecard is no longer just a number – it’s a world of opportunity. Okay that might be a slight exaggeration, but there’s still a lot of cool new features, we promise. Specifically, let us highlight some of our favourite new scorecard-centric features: Sparklines.
The Humble Scorecard
Scorecards use a single metric to display data. There are additional factors in what data is displayed of course, such as the date range and filters, but only a metric is required for the scorecard to work. Let’s look at simple example: the total number of users for a given month.
One of the most common additions to the humble scorecard is a Comparison Metric – which compares the data within to another date range. Typically this would be the dynamic Previous Period or Previous Year options, but fixed date ranges are also available, as are target values (also added this year).
This gives us a bit more context to the data being presented – we can now see that the total number of users was slightly higher than it was in the previous month. But what happened throughout the month? Were there any notable peaks, any dips? One way of doing this would be to add a time series chart to the page for that metric, but Sparklines offer a built-in way of doing this.
How To Add A Sparkline
All that’s required for a Sparkline is an additional dimension to your scorecard. For Sparklines, this will always take the form of a date-based dimension e.g. Hour, Date, Month. You can add this to the Setup menu of your widget, which you’ll see on the right hand side of your Looker Studio interface in Edit Mode – officially called the Data & Properties panel, for what it’s worth.
The section we’re looking for is handily titled Sparkline, and when you click Add dimension you’ll only see the available date dimensions, which makes this even easier to implement.
Select your desired date dimension, and low and behold, you’ve created a sparkline. Simple, but effective! In roughly the same amount of space on the dashboard (and dashboard real estate becomes very important for larger reports!), I’ve upgraded my scorecard to not only show me the total number of Users, but also how that compares to the previous period, and how it trends over the selected date range.
The fun doesn’t stop there however, as there are a few different visual options for this in the Style tab of your widget menu. You can change the sparkline’s colour, add a fill, smooth out the line, and choose how to deal with missing data. If you want to increase the size of your sparkline, simply increase the size of your scorecard. As with most things in Looker Studio, you’re free to play around and see what works best for you – there’s no risk of permanently changing any underlying data, just how it’s presented.
Data Visualisation in Looker Studio
Data visualisation is most effective when it efficiently provides more context and detail around the data, without requiring significant input from the reader, or convoluting your dashboard. Sparklines are another example of easily achieving this, and offer another tool in the arsenal of dashboard builders and report designers, to go alongside other features like comparison metrics, heatmapping, and conditional formatting.
For more on Looker Studio, check out our Guide To Using Filters, Reference Lines & Trend Lines, and Using Comparison Metrics. If you have any questions or there’s anything else we can help with on Looker Studio, please leave a comment below, or contact us at email@example.com. You can also follow us on @GlowMetrics or subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and news within the world of Digital Analytics and Marketing.