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It is a common knowledge that number column in a table should be right-aligned, whereas text column — left.

In this example (taken from this article), you can see that there is a text column (Capital) that comes after number columns: Table

What would be the most readable and consistent way to align columns here, with the given constraint (text column should be at the end)? Keep the alignment left for all type of columns (as it is in the example) for the sake of consistency, or right-align the number columns, as it should be, and keep the last text column left-aligned?

  • What are your criteria for "best"? Because I very much doubt there's a universal definition of "best". Personally, I'd definitely right-align the numbers (because they're hard to process without) and probably leave the two text columns left-aligned (but there are circumstances where I might right-align either one, but probably not both). – TripeHound Jul 30 at 14:35
  • My definition of best would be a combination of readability and consistency. Updated the question. – Ziya Jul 30 at 14:36
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Keep the numbers right aligned, as the purpose is often sorting and comparing magnitude.

Tables excel at scanning. From material design:

Data tables display information in a grid-like format of rows and columns. They organize information in a way that’s easy to scan, so that users can look for patterns and insights.

To support scanning (and comparison), especially among sorted numbers, keep the right alignment:

enter image description here

If you can, add a sort indicator if possible, but even with the numbers not sorted, but aligned, I can quickly grasp which countries have larger populations just by the width of the numbers.

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In terms of consistency, you can think about it at the data level (i.e. same type of data in the table, same type of alignment) or you can consider it at the table level (i.e. put the columns with similar data types together so it looks more organized).

Of course, you should also take into consideration the logical structure or flow of the information (e.g. from left to right if it is in English) and the importance or weighting of the information to refine the table design.

There are some excellent articles on data table design and references to other questions on UXSE like this one you can read about: What is the best practice for data table cell content alignment

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