The rise of big data has put considerable wind into the sails of visualization tools like Tableau, but it's also put a new premium on simplicity and accessibility. With such goals in mind, Tableau on Tuesday debuted Vizable, a free new iPad app that puts sophisticated analytics capabilities at users' fingertips.
"We realized that if we were going to start Tableau over again today, for the mobile generation, we'd build it for touch and on a mobile device," said Dave Story, the company's vice president for mobile and strategic growth.
That, essentially, is just what Story's team has been working on for the past two years through what's been known as Project Elastic.
"Our design mantra was that it has to be as simple as using a pencil," Story said.
Whereas data-visualization products for the desktop typically present users with a complicated canvas indicating all their options, Vizable's interface is simple by design.
The app automatically reads the user's spreadsheet or .csv file and figures out what the key categories are. Next, it presents the user with an initial graphical view of the data.
"Vizable is always answering a question, whether you've asked one yet or not," Story said. "There's never a blank canvas -- you start with an answer, and that makes it more approachable for people."
Users can explore their data using gestures such as pinching, swiping and dragging. A built-in animation engine can show them how each manipulation causes the next result -- but only if they want it to. New graphs or charts can also be displayed immediately, without that view of what led to the result.
"The speed of animation depends on how fast you move your finger," Story explained. "If you're a power user, you can tap or flick and jump right there. If you're tentative, you can do it slowly and see the animation."
Finally, visualizations can be immediately emailed or shared via text message and social media directly from within the app.
Vizable is now available in the Apple iTunes store in English. It supports data in many international formats and will be translated into other languages in the future, Tableau said.