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  1. #1
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    Can large tables ever be readable?

    For most of the pages I create the main content is a table or a set of links - there'll be a header with the logo and page name, a footer with links and dates, etc, and the body of the page will be a brief paragraph explaining the table and then a huge table. I've just counted one and it's over 3000 rows. The pages with links aren't as bad as that, but they're still pretty big.

    With something like this it's difficult to find information - a table filling the whole screen and a really small scroll bar because there's so much off-screen isn't an appealling thing to look at.

    I've been trying to improve the readability of this sort of page - changing fonts, colours, and padding helps but I need to rethink how the page should be laid out. One thing to try is breaking the data into smaller tables, and having more pages - then I'll have to have page numbers, and cope with users who complain that the data isn't there because it's not on the first page.

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    malloc
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    You can let your users search, sort by column header, or refine by certain criterea to cut down the number of rows before they have to scroll through a big table.

  3. #3
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    I should have added a brief bit about the corperate rules I have to play by.

    They're static pages - I can add CSS for appearance but not layout, JavaScript if it's simple and I can make a very good case for it (I had to remove code which displayed the date the page was last updated), and nothing else.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadioListings
    JavaScript if it's simple and I can make a very good case for it
    You could use JavaScript and CSS to paginate the display but it depends how much control you have over the actual content and how it is generated/implemented.

    The 'very good case for it' depends on the driver for your work - is this something you are trying to achieve for your own improvement and satisfaction, or do you have a business case requesting this improvement.

    Quite frankly, 3000 rows of data on a page is very poor from every point of view (performance, readability, customer experience) and should be a good enough reason to do 'whatever it takes' to improve this, however if you are restricted by the 'corporate politics and red tape' that it sounds liek you are, then your hands are tied.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadioListings
    I should have added a brief bit about the corperate rules I have to play by.
    Say no more - another set of suits stuck on the last century or wearing "jobsworth" hats! I feel for you...

    Quote Originally Posted by RadioListings
    They're static pages - I can add CSS for appearance but not layout, JavaScript if it's simple and I can make a very good case for it (I had to remove code which displayed the date the page was last updated), and nothing else.
    Why can't you use CSS for layout? that's what it's meant for

  6. #6
    malloc
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    Well then you can't do anything about it can you?

    I guess you could always delete some of the data....

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy DaveWoods's Avatar
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    CSS isn't made for laying out tables in the sense of using divs to replace them, if it's a data table then a table should be used.

    My first suggestion would be to use alternate colours for the rows of your tables so it's easy to read across the columns. Just slight variations of a neutral colour can usually achieve this.

    I would also suggest using JavaScript for sorting the table. I'm big on the issue that JavaScript should NOT be used for critical functionality but in this case it isn't critical as a user will still be able to read the table without it but with the use of sortable columns it will make the table easy for those that do have JavaScript.

    I would personally limit the table to a certain amount of rows and use some kind of pagination like Google do when you have a lot of results. It all depends on how much control you have over the page though as there's lots of things you could do to improve usability.


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