Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Table Design Principles
Later in this chapter, in the section “Enhancing Reporting with Custom Number Formatting,” you
explore how to leverage the number-formatting feature to accomplish these improvements.
Subdue your labels and headers
No one will argue that the labels and headers of a table aren’t important. On the contrary, they
provide your audience with the guidance and structure needed to make sense of the data in a table.
However, labels and headers sometimes are overemphasized to the point that they overshadow the
data. How many times have you seen bold or oversized font applied to headers? The reality is that
your audience will benefit more with the use of subdued labels.
De-emphasizing labels by using lighter hues will actually make a table easier to read and will draw
more attention to the data in the table. Lightly colored labels give users the information they need
without distracting them from the information being presented.
Ideal colors for labels are soft grays, light browns, soft blues, and greens.
Font size and alignment also factor into the effective display of tables. Aligning column headers to
the same alignment as the numbers beneath them helps reinforce the column structures in your
table. Keeping the font size of your labels close to that of the data within the table will help keep eyes
focused on the data — not the labels.
Figure 2-8 illustrates how the table looks with subdued headers and labels. Note how the data now
becomes the focus of attention, whereas the muted labels work in the background.
Figure 2-8: Send your labels and headers to the background by subduing their colors and keeping their font
sizes in line with the data.
Sorting is another key factor in the readability of data. Many tables sort based on labels
(alphabetical by route, for example). Sorting the table based on a key data point within
the data establishes a pattern that your audience can use to quickly analyze the top and
bottom values. In Figure 2-8, note that the data is sorted by the Revenue dollars. This again
adds a layer of analysis and provides a quick look at the top and bottom generating routes.
Figure 2-9 shows the table before and after all the improvements are made. It’s easy to see how a few
design principles can greatly enhance your ability to present table-driven data.