For the Love of Data Studio by Elizabeth DiLuzio

Happy weekend! I’m Elizabeth DiLuzio, volunteer curator for AEA365. If you’re into the data analytics part of our work, you understand the value of knowing a variety of technologies, platforms, and coding languages. Each one has its use case and, the more you know, the more customized and accessible your work becomes for your end-user. In that spirit, I want to add another data viz tool to your toolbox: Google’s Data Studio. As any good Google product, it’s free, collaborative, and easily accessible. As a data visualization tool, it can connect to hundreds of data source types to easily create attractive, interactive, live dashboards. Whether you’re dipping your toes in live dashboarding for the first time or a seasoned pro, here are some use cases for Data Studio.

  1. You’re new to dashboarding technologies. If you’ve never used a dashboarding platform such as PowerBI or Tableau, Data Studio is an excellent way to dip your toes into the waters with zero commitment. Not only is Data Studio 100% free, its user interface is extremely similar to both PowerBI and Tableau. Once you’ve learned DataStudio, you are 90% of the way there in the other platforms.
  2. Your stakeholders already use GSuite. Being a GSuite subscriber means they’re already familiar with the brand, comfortable with the level of data security, and are primed for integrating this new tool into their environment.
  3. You (or your stakeholders) want a free solution. Microsoft’s PowerBI is one big sales funnel. Sure, you can create visualizations with their free version, but as soon as you try to share it – even within an organization – you will need to pay for user licenses. Tableau is a bit less restrictive in that they offer the free Tableau Reader, although a barrier to use is the need to download Reader before you can use it. With Data Studio, accessing a visualization is as easy as clicking on a hyperlink. 
  4. Your visualizations in Excel are limited, glitchy, or not polished enough. When I needed a free dashboarding solution in my pre-Data Studio days, I was creating dashboards on a worksheet in Excel. This wasn’t always the ideal platform for folks unfamiliar with Excel, for those times I needed a super polished look to my work, or for the more complex visualizations I wanted to create (just try to easily filter a visualization to show only the data from the past week).
  5. You’re looking to create an automated data-collection-to-data-visualization pipeline. You can leverage the Google Suite of products to dump data entered in a Google Form into a Google Sheet, and then connect that Sheet to a Data Studio dashboard. This will effectively create a pipeline of information that connects your constituents with your data stakeholders in a matter of minutes.

While I am by no means under the impression that Data Studio is the best and most flawless data viz tool out there, it does come with some serious perks that complement the viz tools I already use. For me, it’s not about finding the one tool that will meet all of my viz needs. It’s about having enough tools in my toolkit to create a nimble, customized, and responsive solution to my stakeholder’s needs.

Rad Resource

You can learn more about the GSuite information pipeline from this free webinar. If you’re ready to dive into Data Studio but would like some training wheels to start, here’s a link to a self-paced course for beginners. 

Now it’s Your Turn

Questions, comments or a desire to share your favorite dashboarding tool with your fellow evaluators? Drop a note in the comment section below or join us in the Evaluators’ Slack Channel. I look forward to hearing from you!


Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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