What's a rule of thumb for when use rows and columns (i.e. tables) versus single or multi-line "blobs" to display data? I swear I'm right on the fence for several screens of a complex administration interface for a database.

My own primary differentiator tends to be sorting/filtering. If you are going to do that by more than few variables, it's probably a table. I should also mention I think it is my duty to explore all other options before settling on a table because they tend to be the default go-to in engineering-heavy products.

Thanks! This is my first post.

1 Answer 1


The following are guidelines that I typically use when making this decision.

Tables are good when comparing data points across records/sorting/filtering.

Use a table display when:

  • it is important to be able to visually compare values from several different records (e.g. which address records are from Spain, order records by users' last name)
  • you'd like your users to think of this data as instances of the same thing (e.g. inventory management, employee time tracking)

Cards (or "blobs") are good when records don't need to be compared to each other.

Use a card display when:

  • users have no need to sort/compare data between records (e.g. Twitter feed, book reviews)
  • you'd like your users to think of these things as distinct objects (e.g. presenting a variety of sports products and details to a user, showing a user a number of different document templates to choose from)
  • Good summation, @maxathousand. My various screens are a little of each case above, so it remains a tough decision. But it's very helpful to hear someone else's rule of thumb.
    – Rashcom
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 19:27

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