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I am doing a proof of concept with responsive design. One web page that I am modifying has some extremely wide tables. I really don't know how to shrink the tables width so there is no horizontal scroll bar in a mobile browser.

I was just wondering if anyone had the same issue with wide tables and what they did to overcome a horizontal scroll bar in a mobile browser using responsive design. Oh and I wanted to add that I can not hide columns in the table.

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This sounds like a question of how to fix the table implementation which would make this a better fit for StackOverflow. – MCeley Feb 22 '13 at 21:51
I disagree, MCeley. I ran into this with a client not long ago and I can't think of how i would display tabular data (taking the implementation fully out of, I couldn't really figure out how it should look). Long tables are really nasty. – Bryan Robinson Feb 22 '13 at 22:25
this is definitely UX, i.e. what to do with wide data as the view port gets narrower, in order to main peak usefulness and consumability for the user – Toni Leigh Feb 8 at 22:26

5 Answers 5

up vote 23 down vote accepted

You have two ways out of this situation:

Option 1: Group the data, so that instead of presenting data for row 1 in 10 columns, you actually use 1 column with the data printed out in paragraphs, e.g.:

John Doe

Name: John

Surname: Doe


Phone no.: 1234567890

This data usually would be split in 5 columns on bigger screens.

Option 2 is to leave tables as they are and make them only swipe-scrollable horizontally.

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Here's an example of Option 1: – thgaskell Feb 23 '13 at 0:32
great example above comment – Victor Feb 23 '13 at 1:00
Very cool, thank you for sharing the CSS-tricks link! – Skuirrel Aug 22 '13 at 19:27

One potential solution is to embrace the horizontal scroll. In my comment above, I mentioned dealing with this. What we did (and it may be a cop out) was to put a slight fade-out on the right side to give a greater sense of draggability or scrollability to the right.

It was not the greatest solution, but it is a solution. I'm curious to see other responses, but this is a reasonable fall back.

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Hi how did you put a fade-out on the right side? Was it a transparent ping? – Victor Feb 27 '13 at 18:31
Our dev went for transparent PNGs and absolutely positioned divs. There may be better ways to accomplish this, but that was the quick and dirty way – Bryan Robinson Feb 28 '13 at 19:33

Something has to give with large tables and small screens. When I have this challenge, many times I have to not load the table to load the data in a different way. A list of each record in a Label: Value format happens often.

However, in your case where the table is wide so each record has a number of attributes, you may find yourself needing special pages that show the details of each record or produce something similar to an accordion control.

Long story short - try to approach the data as "how would I display this data on a small screen if I wasn't using a table". RWD has a lot of challenges but no where does it say you have to keep every element on the page in the same markup.

Final bit - you may want to consider dynamically loading the data. This way you can apply the template for the data that fits the screen you're viewing it in via a more adaptive approach.

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+1 for how would I display this data on a small screen if I wasn't using a table? ... Think different when you're up to RWD! – Mahdi Sep 29 '13 at 9:52

you can also use Footable jQuery. I have used it on several projects and it works fine. Here's its link:

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You can also consider using something like The Columns Project It enables mobile-friendly formatting/styling of HTML tables instantly, but it require you to upload a CSV file though.

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