We have a screen layout where we have several columns to display. The problem is - you guessed it - real estate - to be able to fit all columns. This is for desktop, tablet and mobile screens.

One of the ideas being proposed is to break up the column headings in to two rows where the lower row is slightly indented to the right of the upper row. The data that will be displayed will follow the indented format as well. Something like -

Indented Data Grid

My question is - is this a viable option to clean up real estate, display all this data and yet keep it readable? Is this sort of an indented data grid layout a common practice?

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    Possible duplicate problem: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/1459/… Do take a look at the 2nd option displaying multiple pieces of related info within a column
    – nightning
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 22:38
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    I don't think this is a duplicate. As I understand it, that linked question is asking for options for displaying lots of data in a table; this question is asking whether one of the answers from that other thread is actually a viable approach. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:54
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    To answer your specific questions: no and no.
    – Devin
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 18:35
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    If we had some idea of who the users are and what the data is and how they use it, you'd get a better answer! Examples: Is some of the data repeated frequently in a column thus indicating it should be broken out to a separate table? Is a table even necessary? Can the data be grouped into cards? Is some data more important than others? If the users rarely need some of the data, can it be provided when the user clicks on the line, expanding vertically? Do some columns provide detail on other columns and perhaps should be combined into the same cell? See what I mean? Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 0:09

3 Answers 3


There may be some sad part of the world where this is common, but I hope to never go there. This kills the whole scanability benefit of tabular arrangements and generally makes the data a jumbled mess.

Data display options

If the columns are variable in quantity, content, or meaning, let your columns scroll and allow the user to freeze columns for easier analysis.

If you know and understand the columns, consider a "designed" approach like cards.

Identical data in data and card arrangement

Tables vs cards

Tables are just data.
Evaluation and analysis is mostly left up to the user. (Because of this, you should allow them to rearrange, freeze, and hide columns to their heart's content.)
Tables tend to be vertically conservative in exchange for greedy use of the horizontal.

Cards have an opinion about data.
They make a statement about what a user needs/wants to know.
Visual hierarchy and flexible use of space help tell the story behind the data.
Ditching the column constraint, horizontal and vertical space are a mater of design.

  • Can you elaborate as to what you mean by along the lines of cards? Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 14:31
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    Sorry for the sparse answer, @NeilMazumder. I intended to come back with examples but only had confidential client work on hand ... I'll dig something up for you. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 18:17
  • Cards: rather than putting everything in tables, chunk the information into squares: fastcodesign.com/1672605/… Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 0:15

A scrollbar should do the trick.

Applications like Excel often use fixed column/row headers to provide context when you scroll in 2 dimensions. You might benefit from doing the same.


Wouldn't it be better to lay the data out in individual groups? (I think this is what @plainclothes means by cards)


record 1

  • Label 1 - Data 1.1
  • Label 2 - Data 1.2
  • Label 3 - Data 1.3
  • Label 4 - Data 1.4
  • Label 5 - Data 1.5
  • Label 6 - Data 1.6
  • Label 7 - Data 1.7
  • Label 8 - Data 1.8

...next record button...

record 2

  • Label 1 - Data 2.1
  • Label 2 - Data 2.2
  • Label 3 - Data 2.3
  • Label 4 - Data 2.4
  • Label 5 - Data 2.5
  • Label 6 - Data 2.6
  • Label 7 - Data 2.7
  • Label 8 - Data 2.8

with a search facility of course.

If you need to be able to compare data from different records, then add the option to view two records side by side, or generate a graph. (Personally I think a graph is worth a thousand tables - I am not one of those people who can draw conclusions from data in a table)

  • 1
    thumbs up: "a graph is worth a thousand tables" Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 18:52

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