Richard Leeke is up to his map-circles wizardry again, and this time he has really outdone himself! First a bit of history…
I first contacted Richard late last year with a question about converting his Concentric Circles technique from kilometers to miles. This lead to discussions of different uses for this technique, and ways to add more elements into it. We worked together, pushing these ideas as far as we could; resulting in a good serviceable radius-finder, but it was unfortunately very slow to load, and wouldn’t allow labels to be displayed at the same time.
So Richard went to work developing an idea he had for speeding things up. This resulted in TabGeoHack, (as well as ShapeToTab) which he asked me to help beta test. I gladly agreed! TabGeoHack can be used to substantially trim the native database size resulting in maps that load lightning fast.
When Richard recently started working on Merged Shapes, I remembered the concentric circles project and wondered if importing the circles as shapes, rather than having Tableau draw them from calculations might not give us more flexibility as to what elements/functionality could be added on top. Richard agreed to ‘give it a bit of a play’. The results of his ‘play’ are truly amazing! (See attached.)
Why is this so useful? The advertising industry uses ZIP code-based geo-targeting extensively. For instance, on-line banner ads are often bought based on a particular set of ZIP codes. Of course, direct mail campaigns usually include a ZIP code element. The success of these campaigns partly hinges on coming up with the optimum set of ZIP codes, based on target demographics, populations, and in the case of a retail store, the distance from the store.
This is where a good ZIP code radius-finder becomes essential. However most ZIP code radius-finders out there determine whether to include a ZIP based on a single latitude/longitude, usually the centroid of the ZIP:
As you can see this can prematurely eliminate ZIPs that should be at least part of the initial consideration. These single-point radius-finders end up producing sets of ZIPs like this:
The ‘missing’ ZIPs aren’t as easy to find as you might think. Especially since Tableau’s underlying ZIP code map doesn’t match up with the filled ZIP codes on top (they seem to be using two different data sources).
Whenever I produce a ZIP code map for my ad agency client, they inevitable ask about the ‘missing’ ZIPs. They want to know which ZIPs they are, what are the demographics and population, and how much bigger are they. And might they be worth including? This is the problem I presented to Richard, and the solution he came up with went far beyond what I ever imagined would be possible in Tableau!
This viz shows any ZIPs that are even partially within a selected number of miles of the store. (In this case, our fictitious Richard’s Boards, a windsurfing shop we’re opening in Colorado Springs!)
Even cooler is that Richard came up with a way to split the ZIPs along the circle boundary so the inside/outside calculations could be done. I was a bit skeptical whether this was even possible and how much value it would add. Boy was I wrong; the client loves this feature! In fact we’ve gotten nothing but rave reviews from the group of Media Planners this viz is designed to serve. They can easily include/exclude individual ZIPs, and instantly see the results reflected in the various metrics they base their decisions on. When done, they simply export the ZIP code list and give it to their vendors.
This turned out to be an instantaneous what-if machine with the incredible direct-response interactivity Tableau is so famous for! (I love DataViz!)
Richard has posted a smaller, more limited Public version as part of his Equinox IT Blog. I suspect he’ll also comment here, once he solves his real-work problems. He’s mentioned wanting to give a nuts & bolts post so others might be able to put something like this together.
Final Note: If you don’t care for the layout or graphics of the viz, don’t blame Richard, that’s all on me. He did all the under-the-covers stuff; I took care of the user interface design.
We both had a blast working on this (even when I accidentally broke it for a while)! We hope you enjoy playing around with it. And fan or foe, let us know what you think, really we can take it! (After all this is VizTalk, right?)
CS Zip Circles 19-4-6a.twbx.zip 1,020.5 KB