User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In this case, we want to show if the value is in Miles or Kilometers:

share|improve this question
A good part of the answer depends on whether you're dealing with occasional or frequent users. Occasional (novice) users will find having the units in the cell good because they don't need to refer to the column heading for understanding. Frequent (expert) users will find having the units in the cell bad because they know the units and find them just to be noise. – Bevan Jul 8 '12 at 8:59
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Having the units in the data section makes it more discoverable since it is displayed right next to the item it relates too. Users are probably more likely to look right at the table content since that's the interesting stuff. I can see that the units make it look busier but that can be addressed by making units less prominent visually.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
Might I suggest that you at least align the units in the table, and also make sure the numbers themselves are aligned at the decimal separator? In your example, I find it hard to at a glance decide that Jack Jump is much closer than Kat Likeclimb. That little dot between the 3 and the 4 is too easy to miss at first view, while when aligning the 3 with the 0 of the 20 the difference becomes obvious immediately. Aligning the units allows for quick scanning of the units as well, and more rest if they are all the same. – André Jun 26 '12 at 8:41

Putting units in the data section makes it busier and harder to "parse" at a glance. But there's one complex scenario - when your data varies a lot - e.g. when you need to print precise file sizes that vary from a couple bytes to several Gb.

My rules of thumb are:

  1. If unit does not change - print in the header to have cleaner data section.
  2. If possible, strive to use the same unit (e.g. if you print sizes that vary from mm to km, use meters - this way it will be easier for the user to compare values at a glance).
  3. Print units in the data section if different units are used.
  4. Never mix measurement systems.
share|improve this answer

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.