Data Analysis Learning Resources

Looker Reporting Best Practices

When used correctly, Looker is a powerful tool for demonstrating a community's effectiveness in service delivery.  However, Looker, and the databases supporting it, are not without limitations.  This article highlights Looker best practices while creating and scheduling reports.  When these best practices and Dashboard and Look Usage Policies  are followed, Looker will not only run smoother for you, but all those in your community.

Key Takeaways

  • Be responsible with data.

    • Less is more!
      • Limit Looks per dashboard.

        • Note: All dashboards must contain no more than 25 queries per dashboard for effective runnability. Each query within a merged result Look counts to this query limit.
      • Limit dimensions and measures to those which are critical.

  • Use strategic scheduling.
    • Looks and Dashboards should be scheduled judiciously.
    • Each user has a maximum of 15 queries that they can run at a time. If you ask Looker to run more than 15 queries, it will put the excess into the queue, where they will stay for up to 10 minutes. Any queries above that limit may time out and cause your schedule to fail. 
    • The frequency and amount of scheduled Looks and Dashboard matter.
      • Do not schedule multiple dashboards at the same time - especially not at 6 AM PT - 9 AM PT (peak looker usage hours) .
        • It is best to space out dashboard distribution schedules by a minimum of 10 minutes  as not to overwhelm the scheduler.
  • While creating a Look or Dashboard, keep in mind the audience. 
    • Ensure the presentation is designed for the target audience and sub-targets

    • Any information not relevant to a specific user reduces the usefulness of the report
  • Dashboards
    • Create dashboard links for the user to explore other data.

    • Use diminutive design to target data.

      • Again - less is more. Crowding a Look or Dashboard with too many data points can take away from the usefulness and effectiveness of the data. 
    • Use boards or dashboard links to bring together targeted data to create a story across multiple dashboards.
  • Visualizations 
    • Use visualizations over tabular information.

    • Add explanations on how to use and understand visualizations.

      • Add notes within the pre-existing tile or create text tiles to add narratives and explanations.
  • Custom Fields
    • Use custom filters, custom dimensions, and custom measures sparingly.

    • Use table calculations as much as you want.

Be Responsible with Shared Resources

Looker servers are a shared resource. Servers can only handle generating so much information. Therefore, it's best to be diminutive when designing Looks and be ruthlessly efficient when creating a dashboard.

Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure these shared resources are being used in a way that is conducive to all: 

  • Remove non-critical dimensions or measures
    • Highlight what is important and necessary keeping the target audience and purpose of the Look/dashboard in mind.
  • Many Small Dashboards > One Giant Dashboard
    • Not only will this practice ensure your dashboard runs quickly, it allows the ability to craft impactful, targeted dashboards for convenient analysis.
    • Filters are powerful and can maximize usability of a dashboard and allows a user to hone in on relevant information.
    • Think of a smaller dashboard as a chapter of a story. These chapters can be combined to create a story with linked dashboards or boards. 
  • Scheduling Tips
    • Don't Schedule Too Frequently
    • Mindfully monitor lists of recipients for scheduled Looks/Dashboards.
      • Ensure data is not being sent to users who no longer have permissions or the need to access the data being sent out.
    • If scheduling multiple dashboards, schedule them for different times. Remember that your user can only run 15 queries at a time. Any more may cause them to time out. 
    • Be mindful when selecting a schedule delivery time.
      • The default schedule time is 6 AM PT, but it is STRONGLY advised to change this time.
        • Scheduled time recommendations: 
          • Good - Not the default schedule time (6 AM PT) 
          • Better - Between 2 - 5 AM PT 
          • Best - Schedule based on the need of the report