Seasonality in Data – Cycle Plots

As the summer heat finally starts to abate, and the leaves ever so slightly begin to turn into different shades, my thoughts turn to seasonality in data sets. In Tableau, there are a few ways to highlight seasonality in your data. One of my favorites is called the Cycle Plot. If you’re a fan of Stephen Few, then you’re likely to be familiar with Cycle Plots already. If not, well, here’s an intro.

Cycle plots allow you to view patterns in your data across a particular component of the date/time in the dataset. For example:

  • How have my sales changed on each weekday over the past six months?
  • What is my site traffic in August for the past five years? And how does that compare to other months?

These are just a couple examples, but you get the picture. If you’re interested in date-oriented patterns in your data, then cycle plots can give you a good sense of where your peaks and valleys are. Here’s a quick how-to in Tableau:


2 thoughts on “Seasonality in Data – Cycle Plots”

  1. This is great Bill, the use of cycle plots definitely helps identify your highs & lows as well regular/predictable movements vs unexplained occurrences in data. If I have the range of data, I always try to include a year over year view to help differentiate the seasonal trends vs the outliers. Seasonality plays a major factor in most industries (especially media/marketing) and simple visualizations such as this makes it easy for the ‘Business’ to make certain decisions, or at least to start asking more questions.

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