Google Data Studio

Which Data Visualization Software is Right For You? Tableau vs Google Data Studio

Let’s compare the two leading data visualization tools and figure out which is best for you!

When it comes to digital marketing there may be no tool more useful than a data visualization tool. Businesses gather a lot of data from sales numbers to user data, like what shows you’re watching on your favorite streaming service. Analyzing these large raw numbers can be a mind-numbing feat, that’s where data visualization software like Tableau and Google Data Studio come in.

What Are Data Visualization Tools?

Tableau describes data visualization tools as “the graphical representation of information and data.” This representation can be displayed in any of the following ways-- 

  • Charts
  • Diagrams
  • Maps
  • Graphs
A computer displaying different charts and graphs.
Here we see multiple different infographics displayed on two devices. This image shows an example of different types of infographics. Image courtesy of Pexels.

These software allow businesses to display data in a way that is easy to understand, even for those who may not be familiar with data analysis. An example of this is in the charts and graphics used to display specific types of data. Pie charts are often used to display data involving different population sizes. Bar graphs are often used to display data that compares the performance of multiple products against one another. Line graphs are often used to display the change in a product's performance over a set period of time. 

Many of these graphics will make use of different colors to differentiate data points. All of this is designed to make the process of viewing the data more appealing, interesting, and easier to understand at a glance. This should all sound pretty familiar, as these types of data display graphics were first introduced to many of us in grade school. However, the number of data points we used to plot by hand all the way back in school pales in comparison to the massive amounts of data being compared by these tools. 

Now that we know what data visualization tools are and what they’re used for, we can compare two of the best data visualization software on the market. Tableau and Google Data Studio. Keep in mind that both of these are very well-made products and you’d be hard-pressed to say one is definitely better than the other. Both have features and traits that differ from the other, the one you choose to use is really a matter of preference and figuring out which tool is best for the job you need done.

Tableau At a Glance

An image of the Tableau software.
A data visualization tool like Tableau software can easily make sense of many data points. This image shows an example of the kinds of graphs the software can display. Image courtesy of Tableau.

Tableau was first developed all the way back in 2003 with the goal of using visualization to make data more accessible to a wider range of people. Tableau has made use of the following methods to improve the data analysis process-- 

  • Statistics
  • Machine Learning
  • Smart Data Prep
  • Natural Language

Tableau has more than one million active users and is even used by popular companies like Lenovo, Verizon, and Hello Fresh.

While originally starting out as a desktop program, Tableau can now be used as a cloud-based resource as well. Some of its features include the ability to make custom dashboards, connections to many data sources like Amazon Redshift, Microsoft Excel, and Snowflake, as well as data transformations thanks to its built-in module Tableau prep.

This tool offers a lot of features that are generally geared toward individuals that are highly experienced in data analytics. Features such as-- 

  • A variety of different organization methods for data systems and file formats
  • Data blending
  • Complex transaction support
  • A larger amount of charts and interactivity with the user

These expanded features make a lot of sense considering the fact that Tableau is a program that you need to pay for. It’s safe to say that any data analyst that needs access to Tableau’s wide range of complex features is likely not against paying money for them.

The Pros of Google Data Studio

An image of the Google Data Studio software.
A Google Data Studio template can give the viewer a lot of information at just a glance. This is an example of what a template in Google Data Studio looks like. Image courtesy of Windsor.

On the other hand, we have Google Data Studio, the best free alternative to Tableau. One of the biggest pros to using Google Data Studio is that the software is open source. This means that the code by which the program was created is fully viewable to all who want to see it, and anyone with the technical know-how can make changes and improvements to the program’s code, completely free of charge. The only restriction is that you aren’t allowed to sell your version of the code or try to claim that the code was yours from the start. This feature makes it so that Google Data Studio will always be improving with new features and changes to improve old features, so long as it has a community that is willing to work with its code.

Google Data Studio tends to work best with other Google tools and software. This could be seen as a positive or a negative depending on where you need to import your data from. If you store all of your data in something like Google Analytics, this is a positive feature.

While Google Data Studio may have a more simplistic design for its charts and dashboards, it’s also more user-friendly and easier to understand for common users. The graphs and charts are relatively basic but they still incorporate color and look nice. That said, they don't have the same level of detail as Tableau’s charts and graphs. Google Data Studio focuses on displaying digital marketing and business data, so it’s not as wide-reaching as Tableau if you plan on using it for data that isn’t based on digital marketing.


To wrap things up let's directly compare some of the features Google Data Studio and Tableau have to offer their users. First off is price, Google Data Studio is free to use and is open source, while Tableau requires you to purchase a user license to use the program. It does offer new user’s a free trial so they can try the software for themselves before making their purchase. If you’re interested in all the expanded features Tableau has to offer, then this might be the choice for you, however, if all you care about is basic data entry and features, the price may not seem worth it. 

Another pro that Tableau has over Google Data Studio is its access ability. Tableau is available to use on desktop, cloud, and mobile. Meaning you can use the software almost anywhere, even if you don’t have an internet connection. Because Google Data Studio is only available on the cloud, you need internet access to use the program. Admittedly this isn’t really that big of a deal breaker considering both programs import data from online sources anyway.

These two points are pretty much the deciding factor behind which program you’ll choose. It really comes down to what kind of data you need visualized, what level of experience you have with data analytics, and whether or not you’re willing to spend money.

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