We have a big table where user enters hours for each day of a time period (14 slots for day inputs)

each row represents a task. the Dev team wants to incorporate tasks from another system into that table. only problem is that the new tasks only present hours from the other system. the hours presented are not for each day but for the entire task.

the demo presents the problem (in the last row)

do you have any suggestion how to resolve this issue ?


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • What are 'hours needed' in your example?
    – JohnGB
    Apr 11, 2013 at 8:29
  • "hours needed" is a new type of hour I need to present ( you can think of it as another column). however, I prefer to avoid new columns due to screen real-estate.
    – AsafBO
    Apr 14, 2013 at 5:41

2 Answers 2


Don't try to include different information in the same column in a table. It will confuse people and will generally not be very useful. Possible options are:

  1. Include new columns for the new types of data. If that column can be filled for the existing data, they should. So using your example, you should include "Total hours" in a new column, and maybe "Hours needed" (although I am not sure what that is for). Not that if you do this, any field that can not be filled in, should have some indicator that there isn't a value for it. A - usually indicates a zero value, not a 'n/a' or 'not applicable' value, so it is not a good choice.

  2. Include a second table apart from the first with the new information. This is especially relevant when there are large differences in the information between the two tables.

  3. Include a generic "Notes" field in the first table where any information can be stored. This gives a lot of flexibility, but the data then can (usually) no longer be sorted and treated as data. It may be useful for people reading it, but it is hard to make it meaningful for a computer and a person at the same time. One way of doing this is to have a regular format for the field such as "Total time: 84" that can be read using regular expressions. This is rarely worth the effort though, so I would avoid it. 37signals refer to flexible methods like this that are simple and solve a wide range of problems as 'judo'. It's worth googling some other examples of this.

For your situation, I would recommend option 1 - including new columns. However if you are likely to have to include a lot of other types of data, I would consider either option 2 or 3.

  • Thanks a lot, however my screen real-estate is not big, so I want to avoid adding new columns (especially when I have the entire row blank)
    – AsafBO
    Apr 14, 2013 at 5:42

Since this is a completely new metric, it doesn't fit the existing table. What you need is an extra column (task total), that you may be able to fill for the existing tasks as well. Either that or a new table, but in your example I first thought "hours total" was the total for Sunday.

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