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I've got a table that displays data to users. Each line of data can have a report attached to it. The 2nd cell in the table is used to show users if there is a report present, if there is you get an icon to show there is one present for that line of data.

The first question is, if there is NO report present for the line of data is it more user friendly to display something like an Add icon ( which the user can click to add a report ) or will it be better to just have a blank cell which the user clicks into?

To me personally having a blank cell is not a good idea and not clear at all. However if none of the rows in the table have a report attached then you end up with many cells just with a Add icon which again looks a bit strange. If there are hundreds of rows, which is common, then there will be so many Add icons, likewise if you have hundreds of rows with no report then there will be many blank cells.

I made an album of some screen-shots that show the rows with a Add icon and without.

There are three screenshots in the album, one with icons for add, one without icons for add, and a third image with the cell text centre aligned.

The second question is, should the cell text be left aligned ( as in 2 of the screen-shots ) or is it more clear centred as in:

Any feedback would be great, making usable interfaces sure is a tricky business!

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2 Answers 2

Is there only one report per line? If so, consider combining the first and second columns together. If there is a report to show, then show the report icon. If there is no report, use an add icon as per the image below.

Combine Columns

I personally like the data left aligned. It makes the table look neater, especially when you have varying lengths of data in the columns.

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I wasn't actually quite clear with the way I explained the columns sorry. There is a report column & a memo column which are both different items. Each row could have a memo & a report. If a row has neither a memo or report it would have + + in the first two columns. Thanks for this feedback though, it's appreciated. –  james4563 Jul 9 '12 at 15:46

There's nothing wrong with having a lot of "+". You can just play down the color of the icon, so it is not as prominent. You certainly don't want to leave it blank.

As for the cell alignment, it all depends on the data type and length.

  • Currency and columns with fixed decimal points / colons = right align
  • Text descriptions = left align
  • Time stamp / date = center (or left)
  • One word status (approved, rejected, etc) = center (or left)
  • Columns with equal byte size (zip, phone, social, etc) = Center (or left)

Two takeaways from this:

  1. You don't have to stick to one alignment
  2. For some data, it's a judgement call, but you should stay consistent. That is, if you left-align Timestamp, then you should probably do the same for status, and other columns with equal byte size.
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This is very helpful thanks. I'll have a look though the columns and decide what is the best fit based on some of the items you've mentioned above. –  james4563 Jul 9 '12 at 15:48

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