I am working on an application with a team that has roughly 2 years of data. This data is shown through multiple visualization methods. Part of the application is a settings panel, which lets the user control various things about the application (How much data they see, color schemes, etc.)

In the settings panel, one of the options allows the user to view their data in table format (report style). Because there is about two years worth of data, it's been broken up in to Month and Year increments. If the user wants to export a particular month, they can export that data to a .csv which can then be opened in a third party program like Excel or Calc. This is what it currently looks like with the entire visualization screen:


Close up view:

close up

Even with the data broken up, there is still a substantial amount in each table (probably about 150 rows). This means the user still has to scroll to view the data. My co-workers think this is the best option, however I want to take a different approach.

I personally think that everything in the settings should be something to change the way the data looks or to get some of the data to take somewhere else.

My solution would be to show the user some sample data (maybe 3-4 rows), then give them the option to export as the main function (as opposed to reading it in browser). I think this makes more sense since the user won't have the ability to sort, select, change, etc. like they would in Excel. Mine would look something like this:

My version

It's not perfect, but it should give you a general idea of the look I'm going for. So down to the actual question...


Which scenario makes more sense?

  1. Display this much data to the user in browser (in a settings panel)

  2. Give the user sample data and let them export it and do what they please with it

  • 2
    "the user won't have the ability to sort, select, change, etc" why? Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:33
  • 1
    All of that functionality is provided in another table that the user has access to in the main visualization. The idea behind this table was strictly to view the data and export it based on the month and year.
    – BDD
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:41
  • I would simply not be interested in exporting data. I also do not keep an office program on my computer, so to actually view it, I would need to upload it to google drive. Just give me a good table that I can sort, filter, etc on.
    – Seiyria
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:35
  • @Seiyria We already have that in our application. Do you think this one is necessary in a different place? I'd love to hear some more thoughts
    – BDD
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:37
  • 1
    @BDD I see no reason to take away functionality, especially if you already provide it elsewhere. Consistency is good; as a user I would be shocked that you give me that ability, then elsewhere you take it away for seemingly no reason.
    – Seiyria
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:40

4 Answers 4


Exporting data can be more time consuming

Ultimately it depends on how your users feel about it but exporting data requires users to think more and can add friction to their work flow. If I could only choose one option or the other I would go with option 1, however, export to Excel sounds like a very useful function so consider the following example.

Show some with an option to show more

To keep things fast and responsive consider a hybrid solution taking the best of both options you are considering. Show the sample rows, show more and export all actions.

show more

  • The ability to show more/all is excellent. Lots of use-cases might be most naturally solved by a text search on a report screen. (e.g. how do you spell the first names of the "CEO"s? Something about a "trip"?) Limited data pages (4 rows per page out of 46 rows makes 11 pages) makes that a text search option useless.
    – Dave X
    Commented Jan 12 at 20:55

I'm of the mind that you've answered your own question, with a couple of caveats. You have two examples, so effectively you have your own A/B test.

If you are already talking to end users and consumers of this data and have garnered their opinion, after you have explained why you believe the second example is better (quick scan overview, simple to download, can't interact with the data on screen anyway) and they still prefer the 1st option, then it really isn't the job of the UX'er to persuade them otherwise.

They've given you the feedback.


If you are filtering the data 'Date, year and month' wise then you don't need to do anything. Show the user data upfront and let user export it.


Your question is not which A or B is better, but: What end user does with provided data and how use it (broder context)?

Data is a source for decisions, so you need to know if end user needs to:

  • find a single row to spot an anomaly or analyse particular part (add filters)
  • recognize a pattern or min/max value (add sorting)
  • analyse whole set or local min/max (pagination vs scrolling)
  • makes decision right here and now (no exporting) or used data as a part of reporting system for further calculations or engineering (add export)
  • search for trends or patternss (add charts) or looks for averages (add summaries at top)

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