An in-depth look at Google Data Studio’s features

An example of the wide variety of dashboards and reports you can create in Data Studio.

Ever since it was launched in late 2018, Google Data Studio has positioned itself as a highly capable, feature-packed, and serious alternative to other dashboard software like Whatagraph, Klipfolio, and DashThis.

The biggest draw to Data Studio, of course, is that using the platform is free—all you need is a Google account. Not only this makes it a compelling option, but it also removes one of the biggest barriers of entry altogether.

In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at some of Data Studio’s top features so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth a try.

Connectors

One of the biggest selling points of Google Data Studio is its number of data connectors. What these connectors do is allow you to quickly and easily display your data obtained from a source, such as your Google Analytics, YouTube, or MySQL.

It only takes a few clicks to do this. First, choose your data source:

Connect and log into your data source:

And you can start displaying whatever data you’d like to display within that source:

Google Data Studio currently has over 130 connectors of which 17 are built and supported in-house by Google, while over 100 are Partner Connectors made by Data Studio partners, and 12 are Open Source Connectors created by the Data Studio open source community. Of course, you can also upload your own data in a CSV file.

Note: Using Data Studio itself is free to use, but using most, if not all third-party connectors will cost you money.

If you’re technically inclined, you can also create your own connector or use others built by various developers called Data Studio Community Connectors. You have the option to share the connector you created only with select users or add it to the public Data Studio Connector Gallery so that everyone can find and use it.

Google Data Studio templates

Once you’ve gathered the data you need, you now have to be able to visualise the information in a way that’s not only easy to understand but easy on the eyes as well.

You can choose to create a report or a dashboard from scratch. But this takes a lot of time and effort, not something you want if you’re after speed and ease of use.

This is where Data Studio templates come in.

Just go to the Gallery and then choose from a myriad of templates that you can customise to match the look and feel of your brand.

Of course, if you’ve chosen to create your own design, you can save it as a template so you can use it again in the future.

You can also choose from third-party templates if you want something more unique. Here at Data Studio Templates, you can choose from our gallery of templates we cover:

Sharing and collaborating on your reports and dashboards

If you’ve ever used Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides products, you’re probably familiar with how easy it is to share and collaborate on projects. With just a few clicks, you can choose who to share your reports and dashboards with and what they can do with it.

You can also embed your dashboard on a website, which is ideal if you’d like to present your data to a wider audience. To do this, just click on the embed icon:

Enable embedding:

Choose whether to embed the code or the URL:

Before finally copying and then pasting the code.

Once someone accesses the dashboard, the data presented will be up-to-date. This may sound like a minor feature, but it’s actually a big deal once you realise that some dashboard platforms require you to cough up money just to get shorter data refresh times.

Just like working in Google Docs, you can collaborate with others in real-time, whether they are your teammates or people from other organisations. You can see changes as they happen on your screen, which are then saved automatically.

Complex functions for your complex needs

While Data Studio shines in its ease of use, it is also highly capable of performing more complex tasks if you require them. For example, you can create custom formulas, as well as apply arithmetic, logical, and other operators. Plus, you can also use a wide range of functions that include string and date to help you present your data in an even more meaningful way. This means that you won’t be limited in what you can actually do and display Data Studio. For example, you can perform basic math such as calculating the total number of visitors for a specific year, convert text to upper or lowercase, or calculate the difference in days between two dates.

A few things to remember

As it is, Data Studio is already a powerful and feature-rich dashboard platform that can rival other paid options out there. However, keep in mind that it is still practically fresh out of beta, so expect a few kinks here and there. For example, while doing this review, I encountered an issue with the menu where the tabs became unresponsive, which was fixed after I refreshed the page.

Also, just like the earlier versions of Google Docs, there may be features that you’re expecting to have that you won’t find in Data Studio yet. But Google is aware of this, which is why they prominently added a Request a Feature option in the Help tab. And based on how they’ve improved their other products over the years, we can definitely expect Data Studio—a platform that’s already good—to get even better.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning here that although the platform itself is free to use, you may have to pay for some other features, such as connectors. Even then, you’ve already saved a lot of money from the free access you get to Data Studio.

Summary

With the increasing amount of data that businesses gather every day, the need for easily accessible and easy to use tools to visualise these data grows as well. Because of that, Data Studio entered the market at the right time and coupled an already compelling product with tons of great features (and more on the way), free access, exceptional customisation, and a multitude of connectors. That said, it presents other dashboard platforms with some serious competition from one of today’s tech giants.

Looking for Google Data Studio templates?

We understand that while Data Studio already has a vast amount of templates in its gallery, you might find it difficult to find one that matches the look you want. Or you probably don’t want to get caught using the same template hundreds of other companies have used before. In that case, we can help.

We design and sell Data Studio templates that you can use to present your data in a more unique and visually striking way. They are professionally designed and very reasonably priced, giving you more options to create and customise your dashboard.

To find out more, please send us an enquiry today and we’ll get in touch with you as quickly as possible.

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