One of my colleagues presented a new design for boolean values in a datagrid to me. It shows both positive and negative values (with emphasis on the positive). Now it is my understanding that for good UX, if a value doesn't matter to the user, don't show it at all.


For me the design offers too much distraction (and has too much emphasis on the boolean columns).
I would personally go with something like this:

Yes only

My question is: Am I wrong here? And why? I couldn't find any decent sources why one would be better than the other in UX terms.

3 Answers 3


In the example you showed, what you are suggesting makes perfect sense.

As you asked for a decent source to validate your suggestion, I will quote the wise words of Stephen Few (he wrote some excellent books on data visualisation)

Edward R. Tufte introduced a concept in his 1983 classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information that he calls the “data-ink ratio.” When quantitative data is displayed in printed form, some of the ink that appears on the page presents data, and some presents visual content that is not data.

He then applies it as a principle of design: “Maximize the data-ink ratio, within reason. Every bit of ink on a graphic requires a reason. And nearly always that reason should be that the ink presents new information.”

This principle applies perfectly to the design of dashboards, with one simple revision: because dashboards are always displayed on computer screens, I’ve changed the work “ink” to “pixels.”

So in your design the only pixels which have any value are for the records which are tagged IS VIP. There is no need to tag the other records as NOT VIP because this is already implied.

This concept ties in with another quote about minimalism.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So in your suggested design, taking away the NOT VIP crosses doesn't negatively effect the value attributed to IS VIP tick marks, so you are achieving perfection - there is nothing left for you to take away from the design without losing all the value of tagging things as IS VIP.

  • Thank you for providing a source, that was what I was looking for.
    – Jonathan
    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:07

Agree that the X is a bit too much. On the other way not showing something at all can be problematic especially in modern tables, where you do not have column separators and to give the user a piece of mind that the value is explictly unchecked and not just empty.

We use just a dash/minus to show 'not selected' in our tables:

enter image description here


I think you are on the right track; if the data displayed isn't of relevant, then don't show it.

Using this principle the grid will look less cluttered as you a user would have less information to actively process, which makes the grid more usable and the information more easily available.

However the above argument is only valid if the information doesn't hold any real importance, so it highly depends on the context of your application:

In the context of a stock application it would be relevant to show a stock's net-gross regardless of if it is positive or negative as it helps the user in many of his / her tasks and activities whilst using the system.

If the context is a grid that displays if you get a discount from a certain vendor when purchasing an item from an online store, then it might be less important to clutter an already cluttered grid with further information saying you WOULDN'T get a discount but rather focus on the stores where the discounts are available.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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