Heat Maps 101 | Classic Maps

What is a Classic Heat Map?

A classic heat map is a graphical representation of data where different values are represented by different colours in a grid or matrix format. The colours typically range from lighter tones for lower values to darker tones for higher values, similar to how heat is visually represented. The purpose of a heat map is to visualise the level or intensity of a certain variable across different categories or dimensions, highlighting patterns or trends in the data.

Facilitating in Tableau

1. Open Tableau Desktop and connect to the desired data source. Make sure the dataset contains categorical and numerical data.

2. Drag one or more dimension fields (categorical data) onto the ‘Rows’ or ‘Columns’ shelf and drag a measure field (numeric data) onto both the ‘Label’ card and ‘Colour’ card. Change the marks type to square and sort the visualisation by descending order. This creates a nested heatmap/ highlight table.

3. The default colour palette in Tableau is Blue-Teal. To change the colour palette of the heatmap, click on the ‘Colour’ card > Edit ‘Colours’ > select an appropriate colour palette from the dropdown list.

Facilitating in Alteryx

1. Connect to a data source using the ‘Input Data’ tool in Alteryx.

2. Drag the ‘Interactive Chart’ tool into the workflow, then select the ‘Configure Chart’ button to create a heat map.

3. Click ‘Add Layer’ button and select the following fields in the configuration window (Type, X, Y, Z).

4. Connect the ‘Browse’ tool to the ‘Interactive Chart’ tool to view the heat map.

5. Alternatively, connect the ‘Render’ tool to the ‘Interactive Chart’ tool to view the heat map in a PDF document.


By providing a visual summary of data, classic heatmaps enable users to quickly identify hotspots, outliers, or trends, facilitating decision-making processes and enhancing data exploration. They are a valuable tool for both data analysts and non-technical users who need to interpret complex information in a more accessible manner.

Not sure what heat map you should be using? Check out our Heat Maps 101 post to get caught up!