I have a document (a report) with a table structure. It can be exported to PDF. I want to ask, what is better from the UX point of view?

a) Fixed column widths. Pros: all documents have the same visual structure. Cons: non-efficient usage of space, some cells become multi-line, longer PDF document

b) Adaptive column widths based on length of text in each column. Pros: each document separately looks better, more efficient usage of space. Cons: documents of the same type have different widths of columns. If I print PDFs with March and April reports to paper and put them side by side, their structure might be slightly different.


2 Answers 2


From readability point of view, users will view one report at a time. As long as they are not very different, these slight differences should not be significant enough to be committed to memory. You should test it by printing a couple of pages and asking people nearby to see if they get confused.

Both options should be checked with real data if they render fine and how different do they actually get, the order of columns always remaining the same.

If the report has a lot of content and the web-page has a full-width design using 100 percent of the screen, it is better to keep the layout fluid and allow the report to cover the entire width making it easier for screen viewers at least. I will say use min-width and distribute the columns using percentages.


The combination of the first and the second sounds optimal.

For example, displaying the date, time, status or other variables will not require much space However, the title and description can take up more space (depending on the defined limit (eg. 55 characters))

In this configuration, the table should have the same structure, but with a wider column, in places where there is a need:


Title (30%) | Description(50%) | Date (10%)| Status(10%)

(% of width)

Another solution is to add (...) after the occurrence of eg 15 characters - this will eliminate the problem of moving to a new line

If I had to choose between 1 and 2, I would choose 1

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