I have been wondering which is easier for users to process - list (linear) menu layout or tabular one?

An example: on a Contact Us page on a web site you have the following modules of information: "address", "office hours", "convenient transport" and "phones".

I have personal observations advocating either approach. I have found that some people get overwhelmed and confused by seeing it all on one page (that is, the tabular format) - they do not know where to start from. After all, the human mind can process only one piece of information at a time.

On the other hand, there are other types of people, who seem to get lost in the list layout (they say too much scrolling) and they also seem to find lists harder to skim.

I can guess that it may boil down to people of various perception types, or the quantity of information, or whether the main task is navigating or reading in depth. But these are all guesses. Is there any research or detailed article on this?

Similar questions:

  • "I have found that some people get overwhelmed and confused by seeing it all one page (that is, the table format)" Can you give some backing data? I am curious as to how exactly tabular data is confusing users about where to start.
    – Harshal
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 10:28
  • 1
    Also, could you elaborate with some examples? Lets say of that contact us page?
    – Harshal
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


I think it (the design pattern) largely depends on the amount of items in the list. This article from Nielsen Norman Group might help

Expandable Menus: Pull-Down, Square, or Pie?

  • please include the important/relevant parts of the article so the answer doesn't get deleted as per UX.Se rules
    – Devin
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 19:21

short answer it all depends on various elements. for platform specific like mobile and constrained spaces, continuous form would be better especially if there are only few elements within each group.

for huge number of elements, the norm and practice is to group them accordingly and minimize the complexities. the table or tab format comes into play.

long answer, you have to iterate and find out with number of experiments and know your audience. do your pre-built testing and see how easy it is or is it sensible. another factor that would make impact is your final design. with the use of spaces lines, color, shadows, etc would make or break the form.

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