Tale of the Tape: Google Data Studio vs. Other Dashboard Platforms

Introduction

Launched as a free beta version in May 2016 and then officially released in September 2018, Google Data Studio (GDS) has quickly become a powerhouse dashboard platform for professionals in the fields of search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimisation (SEO), and ecommerce.

Its intuitive interface also makes GDS an ideal tool for more inexperienced users, such as those who simply want to visualise data either for themselves or their clients. Choosing a data source, for example, can be done with a few clicks, while choosing data to be displayed is a matter of dragging and dropping them on the dashboard.

In this post, we’ll share with you some of the best features that make GDS a highly recommended tool if you want a powerful and easy-to-use dashboard software. Plus, we’ll compare it with some of the most popular platforms today so you can see for yourself if GDS is indeed the right platform for you.

TL;DR

GDS is, in our opinion, the most capable dashboard software available today with its perfect balance between the number of connectors, ease of use, and availability of third-party Google Data Studio templates. Of course, the fact that it’s free to use doesn’t hurt as well.

Why Data Studio is the best dashboard platform today

There are a lot of great reasons why we think GDS is the best dashboard software available today. Here are some of them:

  • You can display data from 100+ sources – Dashboard platforms are often only as good as the number and quality of connectors they offer. GDS currently has 128 connectors that include Google-owned products like Analytics, Ads, BigQuery, and YouTube, along with other connectors that connect to Bing Ads, Amazon Ads, and Facebook Ads, MySQL databases, just to name a few. You can also upload your own CSV file.
  • It’s free – Using GDS itself is free. To access it, all you need is a Gmail account, which you may already have if you use AdWords and Analytics. Keep in mind though that some third-party connectors are paid like Supermetrics, which requires a subscription for you to pull your Facebook data and display it on GDS.
  • It’s easy to use – GDS provides templates to help set up your dashboard quickly. If you know how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint or Google Docs and Slides, you’ll know how easy it is to create a dashboard using GDS’s pre-built templates, making it a perfect tool even if you’re not that technically inclined.

The available number of third-party Google Data Studio Templates is also growing, including the ones that we develop in-house. This further expands your options when it comes to displaying your data more beautifully.

GDS vs. other dashboard platforms

Of course, being a relative newcomer, GDS has a lot of more-established competitors. Here, we take a look at some of GDS’ biggest competitors—Whatagraph, Klipfolio, DashThis, and Reporting Ninja—and see how they stack up against Google’s own product.

  • Data sources

If you or your clients would like to display data from a wide range of sources, then it’s important that you have access to as many data connectors as possible. In that case, Klipfolio is probably the only serious competition with its more than 600 data connectors compared to GDS’ 128. DashThis lags behind at third with 34, followed by Whatagraph with 18, and Reporting Ninja’s 13.

Of course, the quality of the connectors is important too. Aside from the connectors Google developed in-house, they also partnered closely with other developers to ensure that these work flawlessly with GDS—all these make GDS the best in its class when it comes to the number and quality of connectors.

  • Pricing – Another great thing about GDS is that you can use it for the absolutely great price of FREE—all you need is a Gmail account to use all its features. This isn’t the case with some of the dashboards.

Klipfolio, for all its massive library of connectors, crippled their free and lower-priced options with very long data refresh rates of up to 4 hours. You’ll have to go to the $99 tier to get a 1-minute refresh rate. GDS thus wins again since it’s the only free dashboard that offers the same, if not better, exceptional level of quality of its competitors.

  • Templates

Ease of use is another area where GDS shines. While all the platforms we compared here offer templates, only GDS has third-party templates, letting you choose how to present your data, including the type of data to include and the overall look of the dashboard. All these make setting up a dashboard quick and easy.

Competitors’ templates, meanwhile, tend to be somewhat limited. For example, Dashthis only has one template for displaying campaign results. The limited number of templates and lack of third-party options make the competition a little less attractive.

  • Shareability – Sharing and collaborating with GDS is familiar to users of Google Docs or Sheets. Access permissions let you choose who can view or edit reports and data sources. You can post reports on social media or share them via email. Everyone gets the most up-to-date information when they open the dashboard. Collaborating with GDS is quick, easy, and secure, so it’s an obvious choice in multi-user environments.

Klipfolio offers a similar level of control as GDS on who can edit, view, or share dashboards. DashThis opted for simplicity over security as they allow you to just share dashboards via email, PDF, or a link.

  • Visualisation & customisation

GDS makes it quick and easy for you to create beautiful dashboards with its range of templates. While other platforms have that feature, only GDS gives access to third-party templates, making it the most flexible and customisable dashboard in its class.

Other platforms vary in the level of customisation that they allow. For example, Whatagraph has chosen simplicity since customisation is limited only to adding widgets to a dashboard. Klipfolio, is more robust, letting you create custom Klips (what they call their widgets) using HTML, Javascript, and CSS for a deeper level of customisation that others don’t offer.

Having compared GDS with other dashboard platforms, we can still confidently say that GDS offers the best dashboard available when it comes to price, value, and features.

Customising dashboards with Google Data Studio templates

GDS already offers a number of templates, but if you want to have something more unique, use third-party templates. Because GDS was launched recently, there are currently very few providers of Google Data Studio templates.

Here at Data Studio Templates, we offer a wide array of beautiful and affordable templates that suit a variety of applications, including AdWords templates, SEO templates, site traffic report templates, and social media templates. They’re easy to install too so you can go from choosing a basic template to customising it to your liking in just a few steps.

For more information about our collection, please send us an enquiry today.