I have a table of users. It has about 12 columns with titles such as "user name" and "start date". 5 of the columns relate to 'special permissions' that the user may be afforded. These permissions are:

  • Administrator
  • Representative
  • Editor
  • Advisor
  • Owner

My problem is that the column titles are wide relative to the values of the column cells, which are simply tick boxes. I want to keep the columns narrow but then I can't display the titles. What are my options?

I tried lumping them into one column called 'special permissions' and use badges where the permission applied. That didn't really work because it was difficult to find good abbreviations for each title. Secondly, it was difficult to see 'at a glance' who all the Administrators were (or Representatives, etc).

  • Are the permissions exclusive? I ask about it, bacause the permissions' labels are more similar to roles. Oct 23 '13 at 9:45

If you want to stick with a table, you could try to rotate the column titles (either by 45° or 90°)

If the five columns are exclusive (An Administrator is never also something else), you could replace those columns with a single one.

If they are non-exclusive, you might try if something like a tag-system works (look at how tags are handled here on SE)


You can abbreviate the column headers, such as: Adm, Rep, Ed, Adv, ad Own. And add a tool-tip to each header which contains the full name.

  • Yes, and in-fact this is what the <abbr> tag was invented for!
    – JonW
    Oct 23 '13 at 9:23
  • As long as you're not on mobile.
    – wersimmon
    Oct 23 '13 at 13:22

I wonder whether it might be possible to transpose the rows and columns, so that instead of something like this:

table showing permissions as columns
you have something like this instead:

table showing permissions as rows

but I suppose it rather depends on how many users you think you might have....


You could split the titles across two rows, like this:


This allows longer titles to "overhang" the edges of the actual column.

The exact order of titles is important - you want short ones next to long ones, to give the long ones room to expand, but that shouldn't be hard to arrange.

  • This is a bit confusing though. Perhaps you could colourcode the columns and corresponding header too? So zebra-stripe the columns and take the same sort of approach to the headings so it's easier to see what column belongs with which header? Your current mockup doesn't really illustrate which column the 'Representative' actually belongs to (in fact it looks like 'Representative Advisor' is a general heading for the columns themselves, rather than individual column labels)
    – JonW
    Oct 23 '13 at 9:26
  • Colour coding the columns and headings might improve this; reducing the font size for the headers, and perhaps left aligning them might work too. FWIW, I knocked up the screenshot in Excel, to illustrate an idea from a real system.
    – Bevan
    Oct 23 '13 at 22:44

It depends on the which user group will going to use this application.

You can abbreviate the column headers, such as: Adm, Rep, Ed, Adv, ad Own. And add a tool-tip to each header which contains the full name by Marwan Ammar

Additional to that

  • Use color to show relation between user groups to see 'at a glance'
  • Keep the most frequent user group columns right upfront

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