I'm designing a table were the description (that can have a variety of lengths) is a vital field for the user analysis' of the table. For that reason, I decided to allow multiple lines in a row (and at this point I'm not setting a limit for the number of lines).

What is the best practice regarding multiple lines in a row?

And, on the specific point of height:

  1. I believe that, when I'm scanning the values vertically, I would be more comfortable if the gap between them wouldn't change (even if I just take milliseconds to readjust it) - second example of the image.

  2. On the other hand, If any of these items happens to have 5lines (hope not), and I decide to use a coherent row height it will be very hard to consume the information.

enter image description here

2 Answers 2


Your two options are well thought out. You understand the pros and cons of each. But there is an option you did not mention. You are expecting too much out of your table (too much info for the given space). Think about it, you have to draw the line somewhere, right? You need to cut corners.

One way to save space is to keep the rows single lines and keep them equal height by truncating long columns. The Description column can be shortened with ellipses (..) and only show the first 30 characters. You can also offer a title tag that displays the entire content onMouseOver. enter image description here

  • 1
    I did consider that option and I'm putting it aside because for the use case I'm working on, it's crucial for the user to see the entire description.
    – ananeto
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 9:03
  • 2
    Do you have the luxury of user research? If you are using this forum as your research, then (as a user) I would prefer fitting, variable heights. Two reasons: (1) although some rows differentiate in height, the gray line does a good job in helping my eyes decipher row breaks; and (2) the fixed minimum height design puzzles me as to why there is a gap in some rows (i.e. is there missing data?) – non-designers would not "get it"
    – jhurley
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 15:24
  • 1
    @jhurley fair point, but even non-designers will figure out soon enough that those are not errors. I think Roy's suggestion of single line with dots, and full description available on hover perhaps (easy with CSS) is excellent for powerusers.
    – PKHunter
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 16:58
  • You're right, PKHunter. Users will figure out soon enough. Am I too impatient as a designer to want a solution that works every time, even at first glance?
    – jhurley
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 17:21

Your question does not mention the workflow of the people that will be using this interface. I believe this is the crucial part you need to understand to make the best decision.

Speak to a user, understand exactly what they will be doing with this interface. Some example questions to get started:

  • How does the workflow progress?
  • Why does a user look at this screen? What do they want to get out of it?
  • Does the user scan to find interesting rows? If so,what columns do they use?
  • Is the user looking for patterns in the data?

Once we have this information it should become easier to decide on how to display the data.

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