Looker Studio - Affordable Data Visualization on Google Cloud

Pradeep Singh
4 min readOct 9, 2023

Originally introduced as Data Studio, Looker Studio was rebranded in 2022 to unify all business intelligence capabilities and position Looker at the forefront. It is an online tool designed to transform data into customizable, informative reports, and dashboards.

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Looker currently supports more than 800 data sources with a catalogue surpassing 600 connectors.

Key Features:

An easy-to-use web interface

Looker Studio is designed to be intuitive and easy to use. The report editor features simple drag-and-drop objects with fully custom property panels and a snap-to-grid canvas.

Report templates

With a robust library of report templates to choose from, you can visualize your data in minutes. Connect your data sources and customize the design to meet your needs.

Data connectors

Data sources act as pipes to connect a Looker Studio report to underlying data. Each source has a unique, prebuilt connector to ensure your data is easy to access and use.

Looker Studio API

The Looker Studio API allows Google Workspace or Cloud Identity organizations to automate the management and migration of Looker Studio assets. You can configure an application to use the Looker Studio API quickly and easily.

Report embedding

Embedding allows you to include your Looker Studio report on any web page or intranet, making it easier for you to tell your data story to your team or the world.

Visualizations

Looker Studio offers a robust set of visual components to enhance your data exploration journey. These components encompass charts, controls, and objects, each thoughtfully designed to enrich your data visualization experience.

1. Charts

Dive into an extensive selection of interactive charts, including Tables, Scorecards, Time Series Charts, Bar Charts, Pie Charts, Maps, Line Charts, Area Charts, Scatter Plots, Pivot Tables, Bullet Charts, Treemaps, Sankey diagrams, Gauges, Waterfall charts, and more.

2. Controls

Take command of your data with Looker Studio’s comprehensive control options, which include Drop-down Lists, Fixed Size Lists, Input Boxes, Advanced Filters, Sliders, Tickboxes, Preset Filters, Date Range Controls, Data Controls, Dimension Controls, Buttons, and more.

Example of Controls

3. Objects

Customize your visualizations with a variety of versatile objects, such as URL Embeds, Text elements, Images, and various Shapes like Lines and Rectangles.

Example of Objects

Pricing structure for Looker Studio

Looker Studio is available free of charge; however, there are associated costs related to data storage and processing:

  • Data Storage Costs: You will incur expenses for storing data on various GCP services like GCS, Bigquery, etc.
  • Data Processing Costs: Additionally, there are costs associated with data processing using Bigquery.

Advantages of Looker Studio

Looker Studio offers several noteworthy advantages, including:

  1. User-Friendly Interface: Looker Studio boasts an easy-to-use and intuitive layout. Getting started with creating charts and configuring their settings is a seamless experience.
  2. SQL-like Capabilities: Looker Studio provides SQL-like syntax, allowing users to create custom columns using expressions like CASE and IF statements. This feature simplifies quick calculations, eliminating the need to repeatedly modify the data source.
  3. Conditional Formatting: Looker Studio supports conditional columns, making it effortless to apply colours based on predefined thresholds for numeric variables or categories for categorical variables. This enhances data visualization and interpretation.

Challenges and Limitations

While my time working in Looker Studio has generally been smooth, it’s important to acknowledge and address some of the occasional challenges and limitations I’ve come across along the way.

1. Object Rotation

Currently, Looker Studio does not support the rotation of objects like controls. Although a request for this feature has been submitted to Google and garnered over 500 upvotes, it remains unavailable at the moment.

2. Chart Loading Times

Users may occasionally experience longer loading times for charts, with delays of up to a minute, especially during the EST morning hours. This delay can impact real-time data exploration.

3. Metric Limitation

Looker Studio imposes a maximum of 20 metrics for a single dimension. This limitation can be restrictive, as users may need to create multiple charts to accommodate larger datasets.

4. Limited Code Functionality

While Looker Studio offers a user-friendly interface, its coding capabilities are more limited compared to Looker Pro.

5. Fixed Numeric Object Sizing

Adjusting the size of objects based on a fixed numeric length is not currently supported. This feature could enhance customization options for users seeking precise object dimensions.

Looker Studio vs Looker Studio Pro

Looker Studio Pro is the premium version of Looker Studio, offering enhanced enterprise capabilities and dedicated technical support. With Looker Studio Pro, you’ll enjoy agile reports, united data sources, automated dashboards, a vast template library, efficient team workspace management, and easy report embedding for seamless data sharing.

Is it the replacement of Power BI or Tableau?

No, Looker Studio is not an Enterprise BI tool, nor is it attempting to become one. If your needs involve creating basic charts to fulfil specific tasks, then Looker Studio is a suitable choice. However, for enterprise-level BI capabilities, Google offers Looker Studio Pro and connectors that integrate with Power BI and Tableau.

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