I have a table where some cells in one column might be empty. Some items in the table have the status Failed and some have the status Successful. For example, there is a column named "error code", but only the failed items have error codes, which will make the successful item's cells empty in the Error code column.

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Is it fine to just leave these cells empty or is there a better, more user-friendly way of handling this?

  • 2
    The error code could guide users which entry has an error. So stick with this approach as it is intuitive and supports visual search. Jun 8, 2016 at 10:36

2 Answers 2


It is just that easy :-)

However, you might want to group all the Failed ones together at the top of the grid because these are the ones that will really be of interest to the user (I am assuming they will need to do something to fix them?).

I doubt they will be all that interested in the successful ones.

  • What if there are no failed ones? The error code column will in this case be empty. Should I still keep the column or should it be greyed out or should it not be displayed? Is there a preferred approach?
    – efrethe
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:02
  • 1
    It is fine for the cell to be empty - this just means there is no error code
    – SteveD
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:04
  • You could code some logic that says if there are no failures don't show the error column, but this does not look like it is an important feature, so it's not worth spending much money of building it, e.g. keep it simple.
    – SteveD
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:09
  • I wouldn't hide the error column even if there were no errors, for consistency. If a user previously saw the column and now it disappeared they may get confused.
    – DasBeasto
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:56

It's not bad as it is. Here are some ways you can improve it:

  • Coloring Failed bolded red and Successful green can help differentiate rows

  • Making the headers sortable would likely help (btw, the first header has a typo).

  • Print the time zone of the time if that's something that can cause confusion

  • Change the status text from "Failed" to "Fail" and "Successful" to "Success". You might need the screen space later.

  • Some options for the Error Code:

    • Remove the column. You can consider linking each "Failed" item to a page with the error code, notes, number of occurrences, and resolution and remove the last column. This can also open the door to showing all Failed Status items that have the same error code.

    • Keep the column. This column could be important if you print the page or take screenshots. If you do this, I would print "-" on the other fields so it's explicitly clear (you see this in accounting statements, for example). That will highlight weird edge cases where the Error Code is accidentally a blank value. You can then make the error code a clickable link with notes and the other aforementioned items if needed.

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