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What is the best approach to tell the user that the app doesn't have anything to display at the moment?

In most cases the table does have content (2 columns), but for times when there isn't any, I think that displaying an empty table raises a question for the user: if this is a problem, no content, etc.

One option I'm thinking about is displaying a message like 'There is no content at the moment' in the first table row, while another option is not displaying the table at all, and displaying the message instead.

Will love to hear your opinion and references if you have any.

  • 1
    Can you give some more background information, and a mockup if possible, for the specific design you are asking about? This very much depends on the use case. In some cases just hiding the table may be correct, in other cases you should show it with a message, error, or call to action for the user to fill in content.
    – user31143
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


No references to offer, sorry. Only my opinion based on experience:

An empty table tells the user that the current page could possibly have some relevant info (they can deduce the kind of info and layout from column headers).

Rule of thumb I apply (in enterprise environment):

  • empty table is useful if the user can do something on the same page to instantly populate the table, without a noticable reload, e.g. set or clear filters, enter search text, add/ delete a row etc etc).
  • do not show an empty table if the user cannot populate the table by an action on the same page, e.g. empty table is the result of search on another page that results in no items founds, list is today's todo-items and there are no todo's etc.

Display a message (inside the empty table or instead of the table), but make sure that the message clearly communicates what you want the user to do, and this may be context sensitive.

  • messages like "there is no content", "no items found" are too generic, and do not provide the user with any useful info.
  • "click here to add another to-do item" with a button could be useful
  • "there are no todo-items for today" would be helpful. Please note that the text here could vary depending on filters set by the user.

The last context-sensitive messages usually require more coding in the backend: a simple if list.length == 0 then display "nothing found" does not suffice. But for intuitive and user-friendly UX, it is worth the effort.

  • Many thanks @wintvelt I've added partial screenshot to demonstrate situation where the table is populated with information, and I do relate to displaying a message when there is no content (and user can't perform an action to generate information), in one of the ways you've suggested.
    – ZiRo
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 12:12

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