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I'm designing a web app to help users track the status of several products over a 6 month period. We need to show a product's status for each month. A product has 1 of 5 statuses for each month.

I've designed this information to display in a matrix like this. I'm open to other approaches.

          July      August     September      October     November       December

Product 1

Product 2

Product 3

Product 4

Space is limited for each cell because we have to display other information. That's why we used colors in the previous design, but colors were problematic because of color blind issues. Here are my options as I see them:

1) Use a color palette that works well for all users. The tradeoff is the matrix will be very colorful and possibly distracting.

2) Use icons to represent statuses. Icons would still need labels, however, as statuses like "deployed" don't have intuitive icons.

3) Use labels. This would make the matrix noisier but the status of each cell would be clear.

Hopefully that makes sense. It's hard to describe this design problem with just text. Thanks for your help.

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    I would use labels. – paparazzo Oct 3 '16 at 14:19
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I would use labels.

Icons/colors are not descriptive itself and need a legend section. As you have many statuses, it is not convenient to remember how does every of these statuses represent as a color/icon.

Upon using labels we meet excess informational noise in your table.

To reduce and overcome this noise, provide your users with additional filters over your table.

Let them group/sort/filter products based on their statues. For example allow them to show only products in status1, or products in statuses: status1, status4 and status5.

Also provide users with additional filter, to let them find a product by its name.

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If you used a combination of simple shapes (circle, square, triangle) and safe colours you should be able to achieve your five different status messages quite easily.

Just like your suggestion that 'Icons would still need labels' so would simple colours.

However, by using colours and shapes you can remove the labelling from the matrix and place it as a legend where it won't interfere with reading the data.

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