Data Studio vs Tableau – Which data visualization tool will better reveal the story hidden within the numbers?

We all love to tell stories, no arguing that. And we’ve seen the importance of data visualization in business. So now the question is: How will you tell the story of your data? What tool will you choose to present your data in a way that will help you grow your business?

data visualization tools
Animation by Tony Babel

First, we have to say that there are plenty of tools and software dedicated to data analysis and visualization. A simple search on Google and you’ll fall down the rabbit hole of what’s “the right” software for you.   

Have no fear, data loving entrepreneurs, we are here to guide you through your decision. We know it’s an important choice, so in this article we will focus on a giant vs. a rising star: Tableau vs. Google Data Studio.

Hopefully, by the end of it, we will shed some light on what these business intelligence tools have to offer and help you choose the right one for you.

To better understand the similarities and differences between Google Data Studio vs Tableau, in this practical and competitive analysis we will compare these and more:

  • Features, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Online app vs. desktop app
  • Ease of use
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Sharing options and collaborative work 
  • Integrations
  • Privacy and reliability
  • Pricing 

So, are you ready to weigh your options and act on the best one? Let’s get started then!

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Data Studio vs Tableau - The Battle of David and Goliath?

Google Data Studio and Tableau are two great data visualization tools, commonly used by industries all around the world for Business analysis and Business Intelligence. More precisely, they help you drive insights from and for your business. 

Google Data Studio is part of the large Google family, so it’s more than obvious that there are some benefits in regard to all Google integrations. 

Tableau is, as they put it, the analytics platform that disrupted the world of business intelligence.

Let’s slice them by categories and see what the difference is between them:

Ease of use and learning curve

Both tools come with a learning curve, but let’s see the difference when you have to decide between Google Data Studio vs Tableau.

Google Data Studio is easy to learn. To have an introduction, you can register at the Analytics Academy here. It’s free and it’s a first step to get accustomed to Google’s product

Probably Data Studio’s highest advantage is that it looks like an ecosystem, where you can enjoy pre-configured templates. These pre-built reports are a huge time-saver for all users just getting started with Google Data Studio.

On the other hand, Tableau has a bigger learning curve compared to GDS. Its interface is not designed to be the most user-friendly or intuitive one, but it includes a “Show me” button that allows users to create charts within a few clicks. For those willing to dive deeper, Tableau also has some free training classes, e-learning, even instructor-led learning.

It's not Tableau, it's us

You'll see that this article is not biased. But our work is. We build dashboards with Data Studio every single day, so we know it inside and out. If you decide to go with GDS, we're this click away.

Features

Both platforms offer a simple drag-and-drop interface that allows digital marketers to easily customize reports.

Google Data Studio is constantly improving, so you can stay up-to-date with all new features here. So is Tableau, see what’s new here.

Tableau has some versatile features that allow users to build more complex visualizations. The most advanced ones require background knowledge of advanced data analytics technologies like Python or SQL.

A worth-mentioning feature in Tableau is data storytelling, where users can build customized story tabs with supporting data. In order to achieve the same thing in Data Studio, you’ll have to create multiple pages in Data Studio. Want to know how? Ask us!

Online app vs. desktop app

One of the key differences between these two tools is connectivity. While GDS is an entirely web-based application, Tableau was designed to be used offline. 

So, being a browser-based tool, Google Data Studio does not offer an offline solution and the quality of your internet connection may affect your experience with the tool.

Tableau has numerous mediums, including desktop, online, and server. However, it is best if used on a desktop computer. Those who don’t want more software installed on-site could benefit from their cloud hosting option.

Sharing options and collaborative work

As with any other Google apps, it’s extremely easy to share a dashboard built with GDS with a colleague or collaborator, and allow them to make edits. A huge benefit here is that multiple people can work on the same data visualization simultaneously. You can get a report link, download as PDF, schedule email delivery or embed it in your site or article. We wrote more about these in our Google Data Studio guide

With Tableau, sharing is pretty similar. You can create and share custom views, interact with visualizations and dashboards, download a summary or the full data. 

Compared to GDS, Tableau doesn’t have so many dashboard templates available, but you can find some pre-built Dashboard Starters and create new workbooks based on those. You can also comment on a dashboard or visualization, create and receive data-driven alerts (both of these features are missing from Data Studio), create a subscription for yourself, or for others. 

Mobile friendliness

In this aspect, Tableau gets the score. They have a “device designer” which gives you the ability to design, preview, and customize a dashboard’s appearance on phones, tablets, and desktop monitors. Plus, you can automatically add phone layouts to new visualizations and customize them for specific use cases. 

Tableau mobile dashboard
Tableau's automatic phone layout. Image source

At this moment, Google Data Studio doesn’t have a responsive design, and it’s mostly thought for desktop. Although you can build it with a mobile width in mind. Stay tuned, we will show you how to build your own mobile-friendly dashboard in the following articles. 

Google Data Studio mobile dashboard
Data Studio's manual phone layout

In the meantime, enjoy this mobile-friendly dashboard for your Analytics data. It’s on us ;). 

Integrations

Tableau offers more than 80 connectors. For example, you can connect Tableau to Google Ads, without needing third-party tools. Though, rumor has it that native integrations with Google Ads aren’t that good.

If you’re a marketer, you’ll find Google Data Studio better on this side. You’ll find seamless integrations with Google’s apps (there are 16 free Google connectors built and supported by GDS), and also better integrations with ad platforms like Criteo and AdRoll, or social advertising platforms. There are more than 200 third-party connectors from all sorts of data sources.

Privacy and Reliability

In GDS, you can use data credentials to determine who can see your data. You can have owner’s credentials access and viewer’s credentials access. 

Tableau also has access control and security capabilities. They focus on platform governance, system reliability, and enabling more users with data and analytics. They work hard to ensure data quality, content security, and consistency.

So both platforms are safe and reliable.

Pricing

Google Data Studio is free of charge. That means it won’t cost you a dime (if we don’t count the number of working hours) to gain data-driven insights from your data visualizations here.

In exchange, Tableau offers several subscription packages to meet any individual or enterprise data needs.  

You can choose between:

  • Tableau Creator: $70/user/month 
  • Tableau Explorer: $35/user/month (minimum 5 Explorers required)
  • Tableau Viewer: $12/user/month

Keep in mind that the pricing is for user, in case you want multiple licenses.

And these are just a few examples.  If you want to know the difference between them, see all the nitty-gritty details here. To help users get accustomed to their platform, Tableau offers a 14-day free trial.

Support and troubleshooting

Whether it’s Google Data Studio or Tableau, the troubleshooting is similar for both. If you get stuck in your own data, have a problem or need a quick answer, well… you’re almost on your own, as there is not much support available 24/7.

However, you may find a solution in the users’ community and here we have to say that Tableau shares a more active and engaged community audience.

Data Studio vs Tableau - Final arguments

Let’s have a quick sum-up of the battle of Data Studio vs Tableau:

Tableau

  • Powerful
  • Higher learning curve
  • Enterprise feeling
  • $70/user/month for Tableau Creator, which includes Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep and a Creator license of Tableau Online or Tableau Server. The $12 subscription is only for viewing and interacting with dashboards.
  • (Kind of faulty) Native integration with Google Ads

Google Data Studio

  • Free
  • Fast
  • High adoption rate
  • Integrations are (most of the times) seamless within Google’s own ecosystem
  • Has pre-built reports, has its own ecosystem

Which of these data visualization tools is the best for you?

Curious to see what others’ opinions are on the matter of Google Data Studio vs Tableau? Have a look at what data experts are saying on TrustRadius.

So, if you are a midsize to large company, in need of a more complex customization in your reports, then it’s more likely that you will choose Tableau. It takes time to master it, so it’s best if you have employees whose jobs are all about data analysis. With a dedicated reporting team to organize your database, customize your own reporting templates and run in-depth analysis, you’ll definitely benefit from Tableau’s capabilities.

On the other hand, if you have a startup or a small to medium company (or even a large one, why not?), Google Data Studio is a better choice. With a simpler learning curve, a multitude of integrations, and a well-built ecosystem, GDS looks like a great fit. Plus, it’s free.

And now we rest our case! The final choice is yours. Whatever that is, get in touch and let us know about it!

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