Making Timeline Charts in Tableau step-by-step

It’s my first piece of doing a how to in Tableau and as I’ve been experimenting with timeline charts, it was only right to give you the Tableau community a demonstration into how you can make this incredibly simple but effective data visualisation.

Just a brief bit of background on how I came across this visualisation, Andy Kriebel from The Information Lab’s Data School posted a video on YouTube on how to make barcode charts, which you can view below.

It was from there in which I was able to make barcode charts, but I wanted to go further to create a timeline chart in which I was inspired by his North London Derby viz on Arsenal v. Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Tableau Public.

Now that I’m able to create a timeline chart, I want to show you the process into how I made my timeline visualisation on The History of Arsenal v. Chelsea in the Premier League. I promise I’ll make it as clear as possible so that you can be able to make a timeline chart in Tableau.

Step 1: Have a dataset that you can easily work with and export it into Tableau, ready to go.

This is a crucial step to achieving a nicely designed timeline chart, so any dataset relating to sport (i.e. football, rugby union, F1) is a good start as they’re perfectly tailored to creating the timeline chart, although its entirely down to you and your own dataset preferences.

Step 2: Drag Date into the Columns and set it to the DAY(Date) Dimension.


Once you have dragged Date into the Columns, what you need to do next is right-click on the function to set the date to DAY(Date) so that the text turns into a gantt bar.

Step 3: Drag Results into Color and do a bit of formatting by getting rid of the zero lines, grid lines and axis rulers.

Step 4: Create some Calculated Fields for Goal Difference and Draw.

For this, I’ll post one of the calculations as a picture so you can see what you have to do to get the calculations correct for it to be a timeline chart. You can see them below.


DRAW = IF [Result]=’Draw’ THEN 0 END

GOAL DIFFERENCE = FLOAT [Chelsea Goals] – [Arsenal Goals]

Step 5: Drag the Goal Difference into the Rows and what you will get is an awkward looking line chart that looks distorted.


Step 6: Drag Measure Values into the Rows and the line charts become even more distorted and hard to read.

Step 7: Right-click on the axis to make it a dual-axis and unshow header for the value axis.

You’ll have something that slowly resembles a timeline chart, but we have to do more formatting, which also includes getting rid of the year header, which was used as our layout for the gantt bar earlier on.

Step 8: Adjust the lines into bars and circles, so in this instance the SUM (Goal Difference) becomes a bar and Measure Values becomes a circle. Adjust this until you have the right size for your timeline.

We now have a timeline chart!


However, as my tooltips aren’t looking great. What I like to do is make my tooltips clear and readable, but that’s completely down to the individual and what you want to do with it. Personally, I prefer to have nice, readable tooltips than being lazy which is what I’m learning more about with Tableau.

That’s it! Here’s the final, polished timeline chart on Tableau below!


Hopefully it has made the process to creating your timeline charts in Tableau a lot easier. If you’re struggling to create what I’ve done with this timeline chart, please put your comments in the comments section below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. As its my first time doing these kind of blog posts, this will hopefully help me become better at teaching others how to use Tableau more effectively.

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