Master Table UX Best Practices: Enhance Your Data Display Today

September 16, 2024
12 minute read
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For many projects, data tables are important additions to websites. Could you imagine booking a hotel without seeing important information, like price, location, and reviews?

Although tables are crucial elements for design, most business owners have difficulty implementing them.

So, in this article, we are exploring table UX best practices so you can present data effectively to all users. At then end of this artiolve you will understand how to design better data tables using a design system for table functionality while offering beautiful visual design to your users.

Key takeaways

  • Choosing the Right User Interface
  • Optimal Layout and Font Selection
  • User Control Over Data Consumption
  • Emphasizing Important Information
  • Accessibility

Data table design

To help you understand how to design a table better, we need to outline the anatomy of one in ui design.

Table UI consists of the following features:

  • Table header
  • Rows
  • Toolbar
  • Pagination
  • Row checkbox
  • Sorting
  • Horizontal rule

Table headers contain the labels for each row. Here, you tell people what the data in the row represents.

The rows contain each data point.

Toolbars allow people to work with all the data within a row, such as searching, editing, deleting, and filtering.

Pagination is the term for the button that gives people access to multiple pages of data. If you wish to display more than one row, the pagination will say "load more" beneath the first table.

Checkboxes are used to select multiple rows and complete tasks like merge, edit, or delete more quickly.

Sorting will help people make the data ascend or descend according to their needs.

Lastly, horizontal scrolling refers to the HTML line code that separates each row.

Every mobile table will have most of these elements. However, it's best not to include all of them in some instances. We will cover these aspects.

Now, let's see what a good table ui design is.

What is a good data table ux?

When designing data tables, you should include four basic elements to ensure they are good for mobile.

First, choose the correct user interface (UI) and table style for the content you want to show users.

You wouldn't choose a table with an item and a percentage for reviews; it would be better suited for customer satisfaction.

Next, you need to choose the correct layout for the content.

Afterward, you must choose the right font and size so the data fits into the table and is still easy to read.

Finally, you need to give users control over how they consume the data in the table. By giving users control they have increased ability to scan the table, compare data within a table, find related related columns, and overall understand data easily.

In creating an effective data table, the design must accommodate showing all the data users' needs without compromising usability.

You should prominently share the most important details on the left, and as you move right along the table, less prominent data can be displayed. Doing so allows users to quickly identify and process the most vital information for their needs.

A well-defined header and a concise description are important so users immediately understand the context of the data they are examining.

Furthermore, using readable fonts and proper spacing between columns and rows is fundamental.

These design choices contribute significantly to users' ease of engaging with and comprehending the presented data.

Above all, the goal of a data table is to be user-centric. It should effortlessly meet the users' requirements and offer an intuitive interface. The aim is to minimize, if not eliminate, the learning curve associated with its use.

How can you design tables people like using?

Now that we understand how a table should be laid out and its anatomy, let's see how you can employ these for your website or app. Follow these guidelines as you are designing a data table to ensure that your tables present the data by employing user experience design.

Make your tables readable.

What good is a data table if nobody can read its information? Great design presents data to the user, allow the user to search, and use tables with ease. When you need to present lots of data,  designers must find the best way to make the table easily digestible.

Designers like us use many elements to ensure your data is readable on a mobile table. We use design tools to create user-friendly data tables.

We will only show the content and UI elements necessary for your viewers to read and manipulate data. The design process for long tables is crucial because, across the table, your users must be able to consume all the many columns data with ease.

We do so to reduce visual noise.

We will also choose the most appropriate typeface, size, and lettering and ensure the white space around the table and content is adequate for people to read content. At times, this means we may opt for a different font than the rest of your website.

We will use padding, spacing, and alignment to create consistency across tables on your website so people can understand all the tables across your site or app.

Lastly, we will ensure headers are visible when people scroll through your data table so they have context about the data they view without needing to scroll back to the top.

Once you've done all this, you must employ a visual hierarchy across your website.

How to create a visual hierarchy within a mobile table

Your visual hierarchy will increase your website's readability. Web designers can use typography, spacing, sizing, and other elements to create a visual hierarchy for your presented data.

By creating the hierarchy, people can see the data in the table without feeling confused about what the data presents.

Here are some of the ways you can give your data a visual hierarchy:

  • Use bolded fonts
  • Use different font sizes for different types of data
  • Create colored dividers that are high-contrast and easy to look at
  • Use contrasting colors for links so people know what they can click on

Readability also depends on whether your table can be accessed on a mobile device. No amount of formatting will help you if your table looks awful on a mobile device.

Order your columns to present the most relevant data first.

Mobile table UX practices mandate that you set the data in your table according to relevance.

You should also group similar data so users see how these work together logically.

For example, gathering shipping data, including the zip code, state, and address, would make sense. Furthermore, these should be near each other so your users aren't swiping too much to fill in forms with relevant data.

Accessibility is a mobile table UX benchmark that is also a law.

Website accessibility helps users who cannot see your data tables access the information they contain. They allow the user to employ screen readers.

Accessibility is a matter of inclusivity and usability and a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One of the key elements in ensuring web accessibility is the design and implementation of data tables.

Firstly, you should provide context for screen readers, which aids visually impaired users. You can achieve this using the HTML element <caption> right after the opening table tag.

While the actual coding is the engineer's job, UX designers must create an appropriate caption based on thorough user research and testing.

Captions clearly and concisely describe the table's content and purpose, enhancing understanding and navigation for screen reader users.

You also need to make the identification of row and column headers simple for visually impaired visitors. Properly marked headers enable screen readers to interpret and convey the table's content accurately.

Using demarcation helps create a mental map of the table's layout, which is especially beneficial for those relying on-screen reading technologies.

Another accessibility aspect you can employ is associating data cells with their respective headers. The 'scope' attribute plays a critical role here, indicating whether a header is associated with a row or a column.

For example, using <th scope=" col"> for column headers and <th scope=" row"> for row headers. The attribute improves the way screen readers navigate and interpret the data.

Lastly, using proportional sizing in tables, as opposed to absolute pixel sizing, is another important aspect. When sized using percentages, tables automatically adjust to the screen dimensions. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for visually impaired users, ensuring the tables are easily readable across different devices and screen sizes.

By integrating these accessibility features into web design, business owners comply with ADA requirements and ensure that their websites provide an inclusive and user-friendly experience to all visitors, regardless of their physical abilities.

Your commitment to accessibility reflects a broader understanding of customer needs and promotes a positive and inclusive brand image.

Six examples of table UX

So now you understand:

  • The anatomy of a table
  • Methods for Employing
  • The importance of accessibility

Let's see some real-life examples of data tables and how they comply with everythign we've shared so far.

Bloomberg's horizontal scrolling tables

Bloomberg, a global financial information and news leader, often deals with large datasets, particularly in its financial software and tools. The company's platforms are known for handling extensive datasets that include various financial metrics and statistics.

In Bloomberg's interface, horizontal scrolling tables make consuming their data simple.

The tables accommodate numerous columns of data typical in financial information like:

  • stock prices
  • market trends
  • economic indicators

Bloomberg's UX design takes into account the importance of prioritizing content. The most crucial financial data is always visible to the user, while additional, less immediately essential information is accessible through horizontal scrolling.

To enhance user experience, Bloomberg allows users to personalize their data view. Users within the Bloomberg platform can rearrange columns based on their preferences or specific analytical needs.

Allowing personalization is particularly important in the financial sector, where different users might prioritize different data points.

Bloomberg is using fixed identifiers in the first column. As users scroll through the data horizontally, these fixed columns provide a consistent reference point, ensuring that users can easily orient themselves within the dataset.

Additionally, Bloomberg allows users to fix multiple columns, a feature that comes in handy when comparing various datasets or when specific columns are central to understanding complex financial information.

Rows and columns that expand

You can see a practical implementation of expandable or resizable columns in Trello's project management tool.

Trello's intuitive design caters to a wide range of users, from individual freelancers to large corporate teams, and demonstrates the effectiveness of such features in enhancing user experience.

In Trello, expandable and resizable columns serve two essential functions:

Viewing Cells with Excessive Content: Trello boards often contain cards with varying levels of detail. Expandable columns allow users to view more content within a card when needed.

The feature is particularly useful for cards that include extensive descriptions or a long list of comments, ensuring that all information is accessible without overwhelming the user initially.

Minimizing Cell Widths for Less Important Content: Users can adjust the width of columns in Trello, allowing them to minimize the space taken up by content they consider less critical.

The flexibility helps create a more personalized and efficient workspace, enabling users to focus on the most relevant information for their specific task.

Additionally, Trello incorporates the concept of "hideable" rows and columns to reduce visual clutter.

Users can collapse lists or individual cards, simplifying the board view and focusing on the most pertinent content to their current task. It helps manage complex projects with multiple elements, allowing users to hide less relevant information and temporarily reduce visual noise.

If you've used Trello before, you've likely noted how nice the functionality is - but could not realize it was by design.

Hover effect enhancing data tables.

Google Analytics is renowned for its complex data presentations and effectively uses the hover effect to enhance user readability and focus.

In Google Analytics, the hover effect allows you to concentrate on a single row.

When a user hovers over a row, it is highlighted, making tracking and reading the information across various columns significantly easier.

Providing this visual cue is crucial in reducing the cognitive load when analyzing complex data sets, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in data interpretation.

Additionally, Google Analytics enhances this functionality by subtly dimming or blurring other rows when a specific row is hovered over. The design choice further aids in focusing the user's attention on the selected row, making it easier to distinguish and analyze the data while reducing distractions from other parts of the table.

These hover effects enhance the overall user experience, especially in data-intensive applications, by creating a more focused and less cluttered data view.

Infinite scrolling data tables

Hootsuite uses infinite scroll in its tables to manage large data sets. You can effortlessly scroll through extensive social media metrics or interactions without clicking a button to move from one data set to another.

Hootsuite's implementation of infinite scroll offers an efficient and user-friendly alternative for navigating large datasets.

The ability to sort columns

We know you've used Microsoft Excel. Whether you like or hate the software, it's undoubtedly simple to use because of your ability to use column sorting.

Imagine you're a warehouse manager juggling numerous orders. With Excel, you can effortlessly sort these orders. Need to see the earliest orders first? A quick sort in Excel brings them to the top, helping you tackle time-sensitive tasks first.

Or, if you're focusing on shipping priorities, you can class by shipping types, like same-day orders.

Filtering data in a table with ease

If you're dealing with a large amount of data, the filter feature in Google Sheets can be a lifesaver.

It lets you narrow down to what's truly relevant. Say you're working with a hefty client list and only need to see those from a specific region.

You can set filters to display only those entries with a few clicks. Google Sheets allows you to apply multiple filters simultaneously, making it incredibly efficient to pinpoint exactly what you need.

Perhaps you could not recognize them as such before, but we have covered them with real-world examples so you can understand them. If you've used or currently used any of these products, it's easy to see why these are best.

They make your life easier, and your customers want a similar experience on your website or app.


Whether through the strategic use of classing, filtering, or ensuring accessibility, each element in a table plays a role in how effectively your audience interacts with your data.

Integrating these UX practices into your website or app can be time-consuming, especially when focused on running your business. That's where our team of expert designers comes in. We're dedicated to ensuring that your data is presented in the most efficient, accessible, and user-friendly way possible.

If you need a hand in bringing these  to life or have any questions about improving your website's UX design, don't hesitate to reach out. Our team is here to help you every step of the way, ensuring that your data tables are functional and a powerful tool to enhance your user experience. Let us help you make your data seen, understood, and appreciated.

Frequently asked questions

What are the essential components of a data table in UI design?

The essential components include the table header, rows, toolbar, pagination, row checkbox, sorting, and horizontal scrolling. These elements help in organizing data efficiently and improving the user experience by making data accessible and manageable.

How can I choose the right user interface (UI) for my data table?

Choose a UI that matches the type of content you're displaying. For example, data tables displaying reviews might be structured differently from those showing financial metrics. Consider the data's nature and the users' needs to select the most appropriate UI.

What makes a good data table UX for mobile devices?

A good mobile data table UX includes a responsive design, readable fonts, and sizes, user control over data consumption (like sorting and filtering), and emphasizes important information. It should present all necessary data without compromising usability or readability.

How can I ensure my data tables are readable on mobile devices?

To ensure readability, use appropriate typeface, size, and letter spacing, minimize visual noise by displaying only necessary UI elements, and ensure adequate white space. Also, maintain header visibility as users scroll and employ a visual hierarchy to guide the user's eye through the data.

What are the best practices for creating a visual hierarchy within a data table?

Employ bold fonts, vary font sizes for different data types, use high-contrast colored dividers, and contrasting colors for clickable links. These elements help differentiate data types and prioritize information, making tables easier to navigate and understand.

How important is accessibility in data table design?

Accessibility is crucial and a legal requirement under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It ensures that users with disabilities can access and understand your data. Implement features like captions for screen readers, proper identification of row and column headers, and proportional sizing to enhance accessibility.

Can you give examples of great UX table in action?

Examples include Bloomberg's horizontal scrolling tables for financial data, Trello's expandable and resizable columns for project management, Google Analytics' use of hover effects for data focus, Hootsuite's infinite scrolling, Microsoft Excel's column sorting, and Google Sheets' filtering feature. These practices enhance usability, accessibility, and user satisfaction.

What role does sorting and filtering play in data table UX?

Sorting and filtering are vital for managing large datasets, allowing users to organize and access the most relevant information quickly. These features are essential for enhancing the usability of data tables, especially when dealing with extensive data.

How can I get help implementing tables on my website or app?

Consider reaching out to a team of expert designers who specialize in UX/UI design. These professionals can assist in integrating these best practices into your website or app, ensuring your data tables are efficient, accessible, and user-friendly.

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