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I have a table that displays about 10-12 columns of data and can be very cumbersome. Some columns are quite wide and the display doesn't look all that great. After doing some research, I found articles like this In a grid, how to display long column headers, which are helpful but more focused on column headers.

What I want to know is whether or not there's a big difference between these two options in terms of a good user experience:

  1. Wrapping long lines (worst case scenario two lines max)
  2. Truncating long lines (...) to consistently display one line for each row in the table
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The answer most likely depends on what the truncated data is, and how important it is that a user be able to read it directly from the table, without some further action to expand it.

Questions you might ask yourself (and your users) include:

  • for the task at hand, is it more important to show more rows at a time, or fewer rows with complete data?
  • can a user infer enough about what is being hidden, from what they can still see?
  • does the data in the truncated column help to distinguish this row from other rows in the table?
  • will a user frequently want to compare the data in two or more of the truncated cells?

You might also consider making all the columns resizable so the user can choose which, if any, should be truncated (falling back to horizontal scrolling if they choose not to truncate any). But don't use that as an excuse not to make an informed decision about the default behaviour.

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I'd recommend doing some analysis on which columns are most important, and which are secondary. Then you display the few that are important, and leave the others for a secondary action like a row expand on click/tap, or a detail view on click/tap.

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