Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm being told by an experienced BA (> 25 years) that "Numeric numbers are usually totaled therefore should be right justified." And that text should always be left justified.

I have never heard this before now. Is this a true "standard"?

share|improve this question
Numeric numbers as opposed to non-numeric numbers? –  Charles Boyung Nov 11 '11 at 14:16
@Charles Boyung - That's another uncertainty for me. E.G. Sometimes a number is actually stored as a string. Medicare codes usually are of the form "####", but they are identifiers. They are not used for mathematical operations. In some cases they may even have an alpha character appended to the end. So is it a number? –  P.Brian.Mackey Nov 11 '11 at 14:26
@P.Brian I think you have pretty much identified the difference. A number measures or counts something (such as an age, a price, or similar). Something like a medicare code is not really a number even though it looks a bit like one: it's just a string of characters. –  Bennett McElwee Nov 13 '11 at 9:57
@P.Brian, identifiers should probably still be right-aligned if the ordering is numeric first (11 comes beforer 100). I am not familiar with medicare codes, but perhaps it should be aligned on the last numeric character. –  Inca Nov 13 '11 at 12:18
what about dates? –  Erics Nov 14 '11 at 6:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes. English text is usually left-aligned. Numbers are normally aligned so that the various places (unit, tens, etc.) are in columns. If the numbers are integers, this just means right-aligning the numbers. If they have decimal fractions, then the decimal places should be aligned, with the units digits all in a vertical line.

This makes it easy to compare the numbers' magnitudes. Mac OS X gets this wrong in the Finder: File sizes are given in abbreviated form, such as 342kB or 6MB. When reading a file listing, it's hard to spot the 342MB file amongst all the 342kB files.

share|improve this answer
Numbers should always be right justified if they're to be compared, especially for cash amounts; this keeps the decimal in the same place if the items are rounded the same and makes arithmetic and comparison easy. –  Ben Brocka Nov 10 '11 at 20:33
@Ben Brocka Numbers should be right-aligned only if their fractional parts are a fixed width (for example, cash amounts probably have a decimal point and 2 fractional digits.). But for example, if your list is 2, 14 and 3½ then the numbers should be aligned on the units digit, not right-aligned. –  Bennett McElwee Nov 10 '11 at 21:10
True, I'm just very used to money being arranged this way, not non-standard decimals/ect, so I hadn't considered –  Ben Brocka Nov 10 '11 at 21:29
Why not decimal-align them then? –  Alex Feinman Jul 27 '12 at 17:30
@Alex, I did suggest that in my answer. See also my other comment on handling non-decimal fractions. –  Bennett McElwee Jul 31 '12 at 1:21

Yes, text should be left-aligned when in grids. Text labels, are best right-aligned. Research shows that there is less cognitive strain identifying relationship between text label and field when labels are right aligned. But in grids and charts, left-align.

share|improve this answer
Do you have a source for this? –  ajkochanowicz Sep 4 '12 at 18:45

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.