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Lesson

Getting started with Metabase

Get to know your way around Metabase and ask your first question.

Metabase is a simple and powerful analytics tool which lets anyone learn and make decisions from their company’s data—no technical knowledge required. This six-minute video shows you how to ask a basic question by filtering and summarizing data. If you’d like to know more, read on!

Logging in

The way you log in to Metabase will depend on how you or your admin set it up, so if you don’t know where to go, just ask the person who sent you your Metabase invite.

The homepage

<em>Fig. 1</em>. The home page of Metabase before anyone has added items to the <strong>Our Analytics</strong> collection.
Fig. 1. The home page of Metabase before anyone has added items to the Our Analytics collection.

Fresh out of the box, Metabase will show you a few things on the home page:

  • Some automatic explorations of your tables that you can look at and save as a dashboard if you like any of them.
  • An area where things you or your teammates create will show up, along with a link to see all the dashboards, questions, and pulses you have.
  • A list of the databases you’ve connected to Metabase.
<em>Fig. 2</em>. The <strong>Our Data</strong> section will show you the databases connected to your Metabase, including the Sample Dataset that ships with Metabase.
Fig. 2. The Our Data section will show you the databases connected to your Metabase, including the Sample Dataset that ships with Metabase.

Asking a new question

But, enough about that—let’s get to asking questions. For the next few examples, we’ll be using the Sample Dataset that comes with Metabase.

Go ahead and click Ask a Question at the top of the screen. There are several ways you can ask a question in Metabase, but we’ll click on the Simple Question option for now. You’ll then need to pick the table that you have a question about. Click the database that the table is in, then pick the table from the list. Once you do, you’ll see the table’s contents.

<em>Fig. 3</em>. The <code>Orders</code> table in the Sample Dataset included with Metabase.
Fig. 3. The Orders table in the Sample Dataset included with Metabase.

Our first question

The Orders table has a bunch of fake data in it about product orders for a made-up company. Let’s start with a simple question about these orders: how many orders have been placed with a subtotal (before tax) greater than $40? More precisely, this question translates to: “How many records (or rows) are in the Orders table with a value greater than 40 in the Subtotal column?”

To find out, we want to filter the data by the field we’re interested in, which is Subtotal. Since each row in the Orders table represents one order, counting how many rows there are after we’ve filtered them will give us the answer we want.

<em>Fig. 4</em>. Filtering the <code>Orders</code> table by the <code>Subtotal</code> field.
Fig. 4. Filtering the Orders table by the Subtotal field.

We’ll click the Filter button to open up the Filter sidebar, then select Subtotal as the column to filter on. Metabase will give us some options for the filter, and we’ll choose Greater than, type the number 40 in the box, and click Add Filter.

<em>Fig. 5</em>. Adding a filter and filtering for orders with subtotals over 40.
Fig. 5. Adding a filter and filtering for orders with subtotals over 40.

Next we need to tell Metabase what number we want to see. When we ask things like “how many,” “what’s the total,” “what’s the average,” etc., we need to summarize our data. So we’ll click the Summarize button to open the sidebar where we can pick how we want to summarize this data. By default, Metabase selects Count of rows metric, which is great since we want to count the total number of rows that match our filter.

<em>Fig. 6</em>. Summarizing a table by counting the total number of rows.
Fig. 6. Summarizing a table by counting the total number of rows.

And our first answer!

When we click Done, Metabase shows us that there were 16,309 orders with a subtotal greater than $40. Said another way, there were 16,309 records in the Orders table that met the criteria we set.

<em>Fig. 7</em>. The number of orders with a subtotal higher than $40.
Fig. 7. The number of orders with a subtotal higher than $40.

Grouping our results

That number is useful, but it would be even more useful if we knew when our customers placed these big orders—more specifically, if we knew which months they were placed in.

If we open the Summarize sidebar again, below where we picked our metric, there’s a list of all the columns that we can use to group our data together. The column we want to group by is Created At, because grouping by the orders’ creation date will give us separate counts of orders over $40 for each month, based on when each order was placed (or Created_at). So we’ll select Created At, and Metabase immediately shows us a line chart of the orders over time.

<em>Fig. 8</em>. The number of orders with a subtotal greater than $40 plotted over time, grouped by month.
Fig. 8. The number of orders with a subtotal greater than $40 plotted over time, grouped by month.

If we want to check the results in tabular fashion, we can click the little toggle at the bottom center of the page to toggle from our chart to the data and back again.

<em>Fig. 9</em>. The number of orders with a subtotal greater than $40, grouped by month, and viewed as a table.
Fig. 9. The number of orders with a subtotal greater than $40, grouped by month, and viewed as a table.

Changing the visualization

Metabase can present the answers to questions in a variety of ways. To change the visualization, just select one of the options from the Visualization sidebar. Click the Visualization button in the bottom-left to open it. Let’s choose the area chart.

<em>Fig. 10</em>. Click the <strong>Visualization button</strong> in the bottom left to select and configure a visualization type for the question.
Fig. 10. Click the Visualization button in the bottom left to select and configure a visualization type for the question.

Click Done to hide the visualization options, and it looks like business was growing steadily—the dropoff at the end reflects the fact that our data only goes up to early 2020:

<em>Fig. 11</em>. The same data as in figure 10, presented as an area chart.
Fig. 11. The same data as in figure 10, presented as an area chart.

Some visualizations aren’t the best way to show an answer to a question. If Metabase think that’s the case with a specific answer and visualization combination, that visualization choice will be faded in the sidebar. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to show the total number of orders over $40 as a bar chart with just one bar, or as a map.

If you want, you can try playing around with your question, like changing the number 40 to a different number. To do that, just click on the filter badge below the page title.

Next up: Sharing your work with others

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