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5 Practical Solutions to Make Responsive Data Tables

This article was first published by Michał Jarosz in the App’n’roll Publication on Medium.

I work as Senior UI & UX Designer for App’n’roll — a Warsaw based venture building company.

As you may know, today’s design requires taking care of various types of screens and sizes so we designers have to make the results of our work as responsive as possible. That may cause some problems, especially when it comes to fitting a huge amount of data into narrow mobile phone interfaces.

The reason I decided to share the solutions with you is the fact the most common things I struggled with were data tables.

How to fit a wide data table on mobile screens without losing its purpose and readability?

I found 5 common solutions to handle data tables on wide screens such as smartphones or tablets in vertical mode. You can use it immediately in your daily work as a designer — let’s go!


Shorten

The most straightforward one, it’s just about cutting out unnecessary columns and keeping the table concise by leaving the crucial data only. The example below shows the Bloomberg website with only 4 of 9 columns on the mobile view.

Applicable

  • any kind of data
  • various types of content

Pros

  • easy to use
  • easy to develop
  • simplicity

Cons

  • limited space for data presentation
  • need to resign from part of the data

If you don’t want to drop any of your data, the other solutions may be a better fit for you.


Moveable

This solution is not quite responsive but easy to use and fast in development. It’s just about using swipe gestures to scroll through the whole table horizontally.

Moveable responsive data table
Source: https://codepen.io/karks88/pen/jGrjdW/

Applicable

  • for wide tables (3–8 columns)
  • for short tables (recommend to keep all height of the table above the fold)

Pros

  • easy to develop
  • easy to use

Cons

  • not for large amounts of content
  • the legend is not visible after scroll

Extras

  • focus mode to markup the whole row to make sure that we’re looking at the proper data while scrolling
  • filter columns — hide and show particular columns

Collapsed

This solution is fully responsive, everything is visible without scrolling and columns are navigated using swipe gestures. The primary column (legend) can be fixed in one place so we don’t lose the context of data.

Collapsed responsive data table
Size guide table at http://massimodutti.com

Applicable

  • for short columns
  • for short tables
  • useful when swapping columns into rows

Pros

  • easy to use
  • the legend is visible all the time

Cons

  • for short data only

Extras

  • tabs representing columns can be used to navigate quickly

Transformed

It’s a bulletproof solution for the toughest tasks. The main rule is a collapsing of the table rows into separate cards.

Transformed responsive data table example
https://elvery.net/demo/responsive-tables/ (No more tables)

Applicable

  • a huge amount of data
  • various types of content

Pros

  • useful with a huge amount of data and its size
  • ability to collapse and hide some data
  • a versatile form of data presentation

Cons

  • repetitive column names
  • hard to compare particular data between rows

Extras

  • ability to filter and sort the content with ease
  • ability to divide the content into separate pages

Comparing

This one is strictly related to the Transformed example but it deserves to be explained more. This solution may be very helpful when we want to compare the columns. For example, an offer or product functionalities.

It’s also a similar to the Collapsed one I described above but it is ready for a larger amount of data. All we need to add is easy navigation through the whole table, displaying only two columns at a time.

Comparing data table
Source: http://vizio.com

Applicable

  • various types of content
  • large amounts of data

Pros

  • easy to compare the columns
  • useful in e-commerce
  • help making decisions faster

Cons

  • you see only two columns at a time
  • requires additional navigation

Final thought

The type of solution you choose mostly depends on what kind of data you have. A good practice is the close cooperation with a front-end developer to pick the most reasonable solution in terms of time consumption and technical requirements needed to apply.

If you find this article useful please don’t hesitate to share it. I’m going to write more in the future. If you have questions or would like to give me some feedback, please comment below.


 



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