I came up with this concept while working on the front end of the Regional Emergency response solution. When trying to templatize some work that was done for a specific customer, I realized that the accent color I had applied would not look good when branding for other customers – as dark logos did not show up well against a dark blue background.
Transparency in PowerPoint
To get around the branding issue, I switched from dark blue to White accents in the banner…. and hated it. I went with this version for a couple days, and then one night at around midnight an idea popped into my head…
What if I cut out sections of my background image and let the page background show through??? I was excited to try it out so I shot out of bed and headed to the computer. It was a little painful at first to land the shapes how I wanted to, but it worked!
How to build your background in PowerPoint with Transparent Elements
If you are not familiar with my process for building backgrounds, check out my post on Background Concepts to get started.
Start off by building your complete background with your ideal accents. I will keep this one simple so it is easy to follow, but you can get very advanced using these techniques.
Next, Select your underlying shape (big rectangle in this case) and your accent shapes. Be intentional with your click order here, as PowerPoint will use the formatting of the first selected object in the next step.
With your objects selected, go to the Shape Format options in the ribbon and Select Merge Shapes and combine
You are now left with a big rectangle underlying that has cut-out transparency
Bring your new background into Power BI Desktop
You can now edit your accent colors by adjusting your Page Background color in the visualizations pane:
If you have really complicated shapes you can look at using the other Merge Shape functions, such as Fragment.
Hope this is helpful! Check out the background gallery to download this background example and more.
One of my favorite things to do in Power BI is get creative with bookmarking, and last week I received a question that made me think of this idea.
Essentially, I was asked if it is possible to use bookmarks to switch between a default Tooltip and a fancy Tooltip page. The short answer is “No”… as bookmarks do not capture the state of the formatting, and tooltip type comes from the formatting. But this made me think about how to make something like this work, and after a little bit of playing I was able to come up with a solution.
To be blunt, this method is not for bookmarking newbies, and the use case is pretty narrow, but I wanted to share it, as I imagine it will get a lot of people thinking outside the box when it comes to bookmarking.
What we want to do here to work around the problem of Bookmarking not capturing format state by creating a two states for our Tooltip Page, and using bookmarks to swap them back and forth.
I have a Matrix of GDP/Gov Integrity Score by Country that I want to be able to add additional context to via the tooltip page feature. For guidance on how to design tooltip pages, check out Power BI Tooltip page Guidance
My First tooltip is going to be a matrix that provides additional data points for the country that we hover on:
Next I will hide my table and build out a “fancy” tooltip, and group the objects:
Now I will create my Bookmarks that control which version of the tooltip is visible. They key here is to disable the “Current Page” option from the bookmark! This will allow us to call the bookmark and make the swap without navigating to the page:
Simple Bookmark activated Result:
Fancy Bookmark Activated Result:
Now we need to make this thing user friendly, which is where the real challenge comes in. If you have read my posts on User Friendly Drill Down, or In-Page Navigation, you have seen the importance of buttons for user experience, and formatting of buttons to ensure the users know where they are at all times.
I have added some buttons to select the simple or the fancy tooltip type, but I want to be able to have them change color depending on if they have been activated or not so our user can tell which type they are on
Well, in this case, formatting button state gets pretty complex, as we are calling on a bookmark that is impacting a separate page… not the one we are on. Bookmarks are tab specific, so it is not possible to modify the tab we are on and get the desired swap on the tooltip page.
This is where Conditional formatting of buttons, and some trickery with Slicers comes into play! By adding a slicer that has no relationship to our data (or all interactions to our visuals turned off) on the main page, and syncing it with the same slicer on the tooltip page, we are able to get the job done.
Adding the slicer
The field used in the slicer is really not important in this case, all that matters is that it does not impact our data/tables and it is able to be used in conditional formatting. For simplicity, I am going to create a new table with 2 values in it, 0 and 1. and add a slicer to our main page:
Next, I will add conditional formatting to our Buttons. “Simple” is going to darken when the “Status” slicer is on 0, and “Fancy” will darken when our slicer is on 1.
The option for Conditional formatting can be found in the format pane by hovering on the dots next to the various color selections. In this case I am going to conditionally format my Fill.
Here is the result of the conditional formatting:
This is great, but at this point it is not functional. To make this work how we want it to, we are going to need to do the following:
Bring the slicer to our tooltip page and Synced with the main page
Update our bookmarks to also modify the slicer while keeping it hidden
Hide the slicer from our main page
I have copied/pasted my slicer from the main page to the tooltip and selected Yes to Sync the slicers:
Now, “Fancy” needs to be on the “1”, so I will change that, hide the slicer, and update my bookmark:
Next, I will activate my “Simple” bookmark, adjust the slicer to “0”, hide it, and update the “Simple” bookmark:
Testing the Buttons on our main page, we can see the slicer is working as intended. We can now hide the slicer on our main page, and we have a fully functional Tooltip Swap:
Bookmarks are incredibly powerful when creating user experiences in your Power BI Reports. While this example is fairly niche, it demonstrates the capabilities of the feature, and will hopefully inspire some creativity!
This concept came about while I was working on a Power BI report for the 2018 Ryder Cup. I was attempting to build out an experience to match a design that a professional web/app designer had created free form without knowing what could be done in Power BI.
The key objective was to make an extremely User friendly touch screen experience for use by the Captain and Vice Captains of the US team.
It was an extremely tedious process to achieve this back then and I would have never suggested others to try it… until Visual Grouping was released a couple months back changed the game.
In this post, I will give examples of in-page navigation, step by step instructions on how to implement it in Power BI, and demonstrate why it is valuable.
What is it?
In-Page navigation utilizes buttons and bookmarks to create navigation within a page. It can be extremely powerful at giving users a guided experience, and an app or website feel to a report.
End users are often overwhelmed by the volume of visuals on a page and lose sight of what is important on the page. I like to follow the concept of “If the end user does not need to see the visuals at the same time, do not show them at the same time”. Keeping the layout simple will lead to less risk of misinterpretation. In addition, separating content into logical buckets and using these methods effectively prioritizes the queries, as hidden visuals do not run queries until they are exposed by the end user.
There are many ways we utilize these concepts to bring reports to life. I am going to focus on the idea of having an overarching topic for a page, and navigating the sub-topics within the page.
Like my previous posts on Backgrounds and Overlays , I am utilizing a data set of King County Health Inspection records.
Step 1. Bucket Your Content
In this example, I have an overarching Page topic of “Inspection Results”. I have some KPIs and a line graph that i want to keep exposed at all times, as they are the “Go-To” visuals for my report. I also have a couple slicers I want to keep exposed at all times.
I have looked through my data and determined some logical breaking points for the story: Zip Code, Inspection Type, and Closed Businesses.
I have also created a background to meet my needs and brought it into the report with a section for my in-page navigation and buttons. Each button will have two versions, one is to appear “selected” and the other to appear as “unselected”
Step 2. Build Your Views
I will now build out my visuals for the “Zip Code” sub-topic. Once the visuals have been determined, I will group them (ctrl+click to select all, right click > Group to group them):
Next, I will rename my group to “Zip Code” and use the selection pane to hide the group. This will give me a blank canvas to build my next section into. I will also shift which buttons are visible to the next section.
This is what my selection pane looks like at this point:
Now I will build out my Inspection Type sub-topic visuals, group them, and hide them as we did for Zip Code.
Finally, I repeat the same steps and build my Closed Business visuals.
I now have a completed Report that is ready to be assigned Actions with Bookmarks. Here is what my selection pane looks like at this point:
Step 3. Bring it to Life with Bookmarks
First, I manually return the report to the state of my first button by hiding/unhiding visuals and buttons. I then select the items I want to be impacted by the Bookmark and create a new Bookmark.
I will set my options to Selected Visuals, and leave the other options turned on. Note that this may vary depending on your use case! If you have slicers within your visual groups, you may or may not want to have data turned on, as the bookmark will preserve the state of those slicers if data is selected.
By using Selected Visuals bookmarks and not including the slicers that are outside of my groups, I am able to toggle between my groups while not impacting the slicers and preserving the user’s filtering.
I will now manually hide/unhide items to my next group and repeat the process.
And one more time:
I can now click through my bookmarks in the bookmarks pane to ensure they are acting as anticipated
Once I have validated they are acting correctly, I will now assign them to my buttons.
Step 4. Assign your Bookmarks to Buttons
Select Button then Change “Action” type to “Bookmark”, and find the appropriate Bookmark. I also suggest changing the Tooltip to make the hover over experience intuitive
I can now click my buttons and see the affect. Utilizing the performance analyzer, we can see how the queries are coming in. On the left below is the performance analyzer from the initial page load. On the right below, we have selected a button and can see there are only 5 visuals being impacted.
Oftentimes I will see reports that have every topic/subtopic forced into a single page and visible or spanning multiple pages. This is done via either increasing page length, or or separating topics into different pages.
The End user experience on a long scrolling page can be rough – they may come in to see my high level KPIs, or a specific sub-topic, but are forced to wait for the entire page to load as queries are not prioritized – Things they don’t care about are loading first and slowing down the things they do care about.
If a sub-topic is moved to it’s own page, I often see that users will force more visuals into the page to fill the space and it can result in poor performance for unnecessary visuals
By consolidating these sub-topics into a single page and navigating within we unlock a powerful user experience as well as performance improvements.
For the Ryder Cup example, we went from 7 seconds on a click, to .5 seconds due to avoiding re-rendering unnecessary items, and spreading out the queries to fire off as needed.
Accessibility – Tabbing
Buttons for In-Page Navigation work very well with Tabbing. Now that I have completed my In-Page Navigation, I can utilize the Tab order in Power BI Desktop to set the report up for accessibility. End users can tab to buttons and hit Enter to activate the bookmark.
Remember earlier when i mentioned the painful process of doing this prior to Visual Grouping? That really came into play when it was time to edit/update what was included in this navigation.
Prior to Visual grouping, the update process would be to simply start over. Now that we have visual groups are are technically hiding/unhiding the group, not the individual items, we can simply swap out what is included in a group.
If I want to replace my Map in the “Closed Business” with a matrix, I can simply Delete the map, build my new Matrix, and drag it into the group. No updates are needed beyond this, not even an “Update” on the bookmark!
The same applies to simply bringing new items into a group without replacing anything.
By Implementing Buttons and Bookmarking, the possibilities for report navigation and user experience are nearly endless. With a little creativity and these tools in the tool belt it is relatively easy to create beautiful and robust reports that feel like applications or websites. Your users will thank you!
Try it out and let me know what other ideas you have implemented using these concepts!
If interested in learning more about the Ryder Cup Project, check out these links:
Around 18 months ago I was working on a Power BI Report build that was going to have a few hundred monthly users, many of them accessing the report daily. We had just formed a new team doing BI for Finance and one of the mantras for the team was “No Training Required”.
Having been knee deep in Power BI for a couple years at this point, I knew it would be a challenge to build feature rich report that meets the needs of multiple levels of user and make it intuitive enough to avoid having to train end users. Many of the powerful features of Power BI are not very discoverable for end users natively, and since each report has a different set of features, past experience as an end user may not be valid.
Fortunately, Buttons has just come out and I had been playing with bookmarks to see what i could do with them. Combining the concept of No Training Required with Buttons/Bookmarks led to the idea of building a guided user experience native to Power BI.
In this post, I will show how to build a guide overlay for true self service reporting and how to implement it into Power BI using Buttons and Bookmarks.
Land Your Views
It is important that your views and features are finalized before taking these steps to avoid re-work. I always finish everything I can in a report before I get to the stage of overlaying.
If you read my post on Backgrounds in Power BI, some of this will look familiar. Like I mentioned in that post, I like to work on these kinds of things in PowerPoint, but many pro tools for design will work as well or better
First, I take a screenshot my finalized Report page and paste it into PowerPoint.
Now I will build shapes on top of my report view that will help guide my end users to features. I will often start by overlaying a rectangle that has a fill with 70-80% transparency, then bring in solid shapes with text.
I will now remove the Report Page screenshot to be left with my overlay and save it as a picture.
In Power BI, I will create a “?” Button and insert my Image.
Ensuring that my image is on the top of my selection pane and selected, I will create a Selected Visual Bookmark. I usually turn off data as a habit for overlays, although it will not affect anything here. (blog post on this coming soon)
I will then hide the image, and create a second selected visual bookmark
Now I will assign the Bookmark Action to my “?” Button and give it a good Tooltip
I will then activate my button to show the guide, and then assign our second bookmark to the guide image. This will allow the user to click anywhere after opening the guide to close it and get back to working with the report itself.
Overlays Beyond Guides
Using the concept of overlaying information and utilizing bookmarks lets us tap into a new dimension in Power BI. There are many uses for this beyond simple guides. Not only can we bring in static images with this approach, but also dynamic fields from our dataset. Here are some of the ways I have utilized this concept:
Lastly, Enjoy the free time you have created by giving users a guided experience that needs no training!
A solid layout is the foundation of every high quality report design. In this post I will show how to implement backgrounds into Power BI and provide resources to get started.
When thinking about Data Visualization, the primary focus is almost always on which types of visuals work best with the data in hand to tell a story. Even if a report has perfect Data and Visuals, it is the responsibility of the report author to land a cohesive story that is easy for the end user to navigate.
Margins, Distribution, Consistency, and Alignment are extremely important and often overlooked. If done poorly, these elements can take attention away from the story and leave users dissatisfied and confused. Fortunately, all four of these items can be tackled quickly and easily with a well made background.
A well made Background will:
Give structure and flow to a story
Guide and Guardrail the creative process of finding the story
Mask imperfection at the report level
There are many ways to build a Background for Power BI. I personally use PowerPoint for its simplicity, but more advanced graphic designers will use pro tools like Adobe Illustrator. At the end of the day, all we need to get to is a properly sized high quality image.
Avoid using shapes in Power BI to build your background
Every shape you bring into the Power BI Report directly will impact your performance, regardless if there is a query associated with it. If you bring in a single image for the background instead, you will be rendering a single element, rather than 10+ for a rich background. See the Performance Analyzer for Detail on this.
In the case where I do not have a story yet, I will start out in Power BI and identify an “Anchor Visual” to build my experience around. This would be the primary draw of your report page.
In this example I am looking at King County Health Inspection data and landed on a map to be my Anchor Visual. At this point, I will go into PowerPoint and start building my Background with this Anchor in Mind. I will then work with the shapes to determine a good layout for the remainder of the report.
If your Report page is 16:9 (Default) You can create in the Default Power Point slide size
Start with a shape that fits your Anchor visual and its position
I will then add color that goes with my branding/theme
I will now bring this background into my PBIX:
In Power Point, Select All of your Elements
Right Click > Save as Picture
In Power BI Desktop, with no elements selected, open the formatting options in the Visualization pane
Click + Add image button under “Page Background” and find your new image
Remove any transparency on the slider
Use drop down to Choose Image Fit: Fit
I can now position the visual in the box i created for it, and start building my story based on the other boxes I laid out for it.
If you find a key element that you want to include does not into your predetermined sections, simply modify the PPT to suit and re-load!
I can also bring in our Branding and Titles to limit how many elements are rendered within Power BI
Viewing the same visuals within the report without the background you will notice that not everything is positioned well, and the report is much harder to follow.
We now have a finished report page and can take our background and adjust our shapes to fit the needs of our remaining report pages. By keeping the same background colors/themes and redistributing our shapes we can end up with a consistent look and feel across tabs
Let me know what you think Follow on Twitter for quick tips and tricks @ChrisHamill17
Check out the Background Gallery to download the PowerPoint for this example, and check back for new Backgrounds frequently!