google written into foam of coffee
PHOTO: Yuko Honda

In late October, Google introduced conditional formatting to its Google Data Studio dashboard. As the quantity of metrics businesses monitor increases on a daily basis, having features like this, which help quickly identify value changes among metrics is essential.  

An Introduction to Conditional Formatting

Before we dive into the specifics of the Google Data Studio update, let’s take a look at the basics behind conditional formatting. 

In general, conditional formatting is designed to evaluate a datafield against one or more format rules that you set. When the rule is triggered, an indicator is applied to the data so the user can quickly see what has changed. Imagine the warning light you see when your car's engine is overheating and you'll get an idea of how this works.

Rules tell the platform where to apply a condition. How the rules are set vary from one data visualization platform to the next. If it's in a spreadsheet like Excel, you have a selector. If the data is used within a program like R or JavaScript, you would likely have to insert regular expressions — shorthand that filters data — or a function. But no matter the format, you have the ability to control what rule — or even a series of rules — is applied.

Related Article: Google Data Studio Makes Dynamic Report Building Easy

Google Data Studio Conditional Formatting

In Google Data Studio conditional formatting, the indicator applies color and style rules to fields in a given table or scorecard. The rules only use fields contained in the chart created from the table or scorecard. You can compare a single field in the chart to a literal value (for example, Campaign = Holiday Sale), or to another field (Actual Sales < Forecast Sales).  

You add the conditional formatting when editing a chart in your Data Studio report. Under the style selector you will see the Conditional formatting section at the top.  Click the + Add selection and then define the format rules, color and style to apply when the format rules are met. The conditional formatting is set when you click save. Keep in mind Google will only highlight tables and scorecards when you walk through the steps to add the conditional formatting feature. 

The conditional formatting you set will still apply even if you switch the visualization type — for example changing a scorecard to a table — as long as the fields and values used in the formatting rules still exist in the new chart.

Google Data Studio will also allow you to copy conditional formatting rules, which is convenient if you need the same indicators in multiple charts. Google provides two ways to duplicate conditional formatting rules: users can copy and paste a chart with conditional formatting to create a new chart with those same rules, or copy a chart with conditional formatting, then use a paste style only selection from a drop down menu to apply the conditional formatting from your original chart to an existing chart in your Data Studio reports.

One caveat you should know before diving into conditional formatting in Google Data Studio: you can only have 10 format rules per chart. So decide which conditional changes in your metrics are the most important ones to monitor over time.

Related Article: New Google Data Studio Feature Helps Marketers Tell Better Stories With Data