Unleashing Data Insights: An Introduction to Metabase

Ahmed K.
3 min readMay 23, 2024

--

Photo by Mike Kononov on Unsplash

What is Metabase, now?

According to metabase.com, Metabase is “Fast analytics with the friendly UX and integrated tooling to let your company explore data on their own”.

Simply put Metabase is an open-source business intelligence tool that allows users to query, visualize, and analyze their data without the need for SQL knowledge.

Features

It provides a user-friendly interface for exploring data stored in various databases, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, and others.

Metabase enables users to create interactive dashboards, share insights with team members, and schedule email reports.

It’s often used by organizations to democratize access to data and empower non-technical users to make data-driven decisions.

Getting Started with Metabase

Metabase provides different pricing models both for cloud and self-hosted solutions. We are going to use the Open Souce version of Metabase to show an example of how to set up Metabase on your machine.

Metabase provides an official Docker image via Dockerhub that can be used for deployments on any system that is running Docker.

docker pull metabase/metabase:latest
docker run -d -p 1234:3000 --name metabase metabase/metabase

Optional: to view the logs as your Open Source Metabase initializes, run:

docker logs -f metabase
  1. Exploring Data with Metabase

Open http://localhost:1234 in your favorite browser to access Metabase. Metabase provides various database options to connect to like, Postgres, MySQL, etc.

Database connection options

To build a query for a real-life example of a table, we are going to use the “Orders” table.

Metabase Home Page

2. Building a Query:

  • Navigate to the “Ask a Question” section by clicking “New” > “Question”.
  • Select the “Orders” table.

a. Focus on a specific question: What are our top-selling albums by genre in the last quarter?

b. Add Filters: In the “Filters” section, choose “Created At” and select a date range for the last quarter.

c. Group and Summarize: Click “Summarize” and select “Count” of “Quantity”. Drag “Genre” to the “by” box to group results by genre.

3. Choosing the Right Visualization:

  • Click the “Visualize” button. Metabase suggests a few options; let’s choose a “Bar Chart”.
Orders Table in Metabase

4. Building a Dashboard:

  • Now, let’s create a dashboard to house multiple insights.
  • Go to “New” > “Dashboard” and give it a name like “Sales Performance”.
  • Click the pencil icon to edit the layout.
  • Select the one you just created from the question list about top-selling albums.

5. Enhancing the Dashboard:

  • You can add more questions to the dashboard. For instance, create a separate question using a “Pie Chart” to visualize the total revenue generated by each genre over the same period.

6. Adding Context:

  • Include a “Markdown Card” as a title for your dashboard, explaining the time frame and purpose of the data.

7. Interactivity:

  • Metabase allows for interactivity. Try enabling “Drill Down” on the bar chart. Clicking a genre bar will display details about specific albums within that genre.

8. Sharing Insights:

  • Once your dashboard is refined, share it with colleagues for informed decision-making.

9. Community and Support

The Metabase community offers a variety of resources for users of all levels. Whether you’re new to Metabase and looking for help getting started, or a seasoned user with a technical question, there’s something for you. Here are some useful links.

10. Conclusion

In conclusion, Metabase empowers users by making data analysis accessible to everyone. It offers a user-friendly platform that enables individuals of all technical backgrounds to explore, visualize, and derive insights from data. This accessibility fosters a data-driven culture within organizations, unlocking the true potential of their information.

--

--

Ahmed K.

Software Engineer; Coding while time-traveling through World History!