The Types Of Data Tables You Should Be Using On Your Website

The types of data tables – those words might seem like, well, just words. But, let me tell you, in the world of web design, they’re a game changer, an MVP, the real unsung heroes of functionality.

You see, a data table isn’t just a boring old grid.

Nah, they’re the treasure chests of information, the conduits of clarity. They help your users find the needle in the haystack. They are the guides through the dense jungle of data, the flashlight in the foggy night.

  • Simple tables?
  • Multi-dimensional tables?
  • Hierarchical tables?

They’re all part of the data table family, each one with its own style.

That’s the beauty of data tables. They transform information into a visual symphony, a harmony of rows and columns. The intrigue lies not in their uniformity but their diversity.

The Types of Data Tables

Textual Data Tables

Let’s start with the first on our list – textual data tables. These are the kind of tables that handle a whole lot of words.

Think of an article database, where you have titles, authors, publication dates, and maybe a short description.

Textual data tables are like the bookworms of data tables, always lost in words. They shine in scenarios where the main content is non-numerical.

Like, when you want to show a list of blog posts with details about the author and publish date, or a directory of employees with their names, emails, and job titles.

Designing textual data tables isn’t just about plopping text into cells. Nope. You’ve got to make it easy to scan and comprehend. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep it minimal: Avoid wordy cells. Break information into separate columns if needed.
  • Alignment matters: Left align your text. It’s easier on the eyes and supports our natural reading flow.
  • Zebra striping: Consider using alternating row colors. It’s easier to follow a line of text without getting lost.

Numerical Data Tables

Monthly summary report table created with wpDataTables

Next up, numerical data tables. These tables are all about numbers. They’re like the mathematicians of data tables, always crunching digits.

You’ll see these guys a lot in financial reports, sales data, or anywhere you’ve got a bunch of numerical data to show.

For example, if you’re showing a product list with prices, ratings, and available stock, or perhaps a sports scoreboard showing team rankings, player stats, and scores. Numerical data tables handle it like a boss.

Designing numerical data tables has its own set of rules. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Right align numbers: It makes comparing figures easier.
  • Highlight important figures: Using bold or color can help important numbers stand out.
  • Provide summary rows: Totals or averages at the bottom or top can give a quick overview of the data.

Mixed Data Tables

Top Mutual Funds table created with wpDataTables

Last but not least, mixed data tables. As the name suggests, these tables are the cool kids that handle both text and numbers. They’re versatile and flexible, adapting to various scenarios where you’ve got a mix of data types.

Imagine a table showing an inventory of products, with names, descriptions, prices, and stock levels, or a table showing a list of students, their ID numbers, courses, and grades.

For mixed data tables, you need to balance the best practices for both textual and numerical tables.

Keep it simple, keep it clear, and consider how users will interact with the data. And most importantly, always put the user first.

Your table is only as good as it is usable.

Designing Effective Data Tables

Premier League table design created with wpDataTables

Cool, now that we know about the different types of data tables, let’s level up.

Understanding User Needs

Good design is about understanding the user. Period. When it comes to data tables, your users aren’t interested in how fancy your table looks. They care about finding the information they need.

Once you understand the users’ needs, you can start designing data tables that are not just usable, but also a pleasure to interact with.

Considerations for Data Table Design

Now, here are some points to consider:

  • Simplicity: Don’t overwhelm users with too much information.
  • Consistency: Consistent design makes your table easier to understand. Stick to a single style.
  • Responsiveness: Your table should look and function well on any device. Make sure it’s responsive.

Elements of a Table: Data, Columns, and Rows

A data table has three key elements: data, columns, and rows.

  • Data: The data you display should be relevant, clear, and easy to understand.
  • Columns: Each column should represent a specific type of information.
  • Rows: These are the individual items or units. Each row should represent a single data record.

Types of Data and Their Presentation

The type of data you have determines how you present it.

  • Textual Data: Keep it concise, use clear labels, and align text to the left.
  • Numerical Data: Right align numbers for easy comparison, and highlight important figures.
  • Mixed Data: Balance the needs of textual and numerical data. Make it simple and clear.

Column and Row Management

Handling columns and rows can be tricky. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Adding and removing columns: Be selective about what you show. More isn’t always better.
  • Ordering of columns: Put the most important columns where they’re easiest to see, like at the beginning.
  • Row height: Keep rows tall enough to be legible and clickable, but short enough to show as much data as possible.

Viewing Options and Customization

Lastly, consider offering viewing options and customization. Letting users adjust the table to their needs can vastly improve their experience.

Think about allowing users to show or hide columns, sort data, or filter results.


Your beautiful data deserves to be online

wpDataTables can make it that way. There’s a good reason why it’s the #1 WordPress plugin for creating responsive tables and charts.

An actual example of wpDataTables in the wild

And it’s really easy to do something like this:

  1. You provide the table data
  2. Configure and customize it
  3. Publish it in a post or page

And it’s not just pretty, but also practical. You can make large tables with up to millions of rows, or you can use advanced filters and search, or you can go wild and make it editable.

“Yeah, but I just like Excel too much and there’s nothing like that on websites”. Yeah, there is. You can use conditional formatting like in Excel or Google Sheets.

Did I tell you you can create charts too with your data? And that’s only a small part. There are lots of other features for you.

Enhancing Data Table UX

UX in data table design is all about making sure users can easily find, understand, and use the data they need. It’s about making your data table not just usable, but also intuitive and efficient.

So, what does good UX look like in a data table?

Here are some examples:

  • Clear Column Headers: Make sure users know exactly what each column represents. Keep headers short, clear, and concise.
  • Clickable Rows: If rows lead to more details, make it obvious. Maybe change the cursor on hover, or highlight the row.
  • Hover Effects: Speaking of hover, consider showing more options or details when a user hovers over a row or cell. It’s a great way to keep the interface clean yet informative.

Row and Column Styles

How your rows and columns look can also have a big impact on UX.

Here are a couple of tips:

  • Zebra Striping: Alternating row colors can make it easier to follow a line of text. It’s a small change that can make a big difference.
  • Column Width: Make sure your column widths match the content. Too narrow, and data might get cut off. Too wide, and you’re wasting space.

Navigation and Interaction

How users navigate and interact with your data table is another key part of UX. Consider these points:

  • Pagination or Infinite Scroll: If you’ve got a lot of data, showing it all at once might be overwhelming. Break it up with pagination or infinite scroll.
  • Sorting and Filtering: Let users sort columns or filter data. It can make finding specific data a whole lot easier.

Table Actions and Feedback

Lastly, consider how users perform actions and get feedback. Here’s what to think about:

  • Action Buttons: If users can perform actions like editing or deleting, make these options clear and easy to use.
  • Feedback Messages: If an action was successful, or if something went wrong, let the user know. Clear feedback is crucial.

Advanced Data Table Features

Search, Sort, and Filter Functions

  • Search: A quick and simple search bar allows users to pinpoint the exact piece of data they’re looking for.
  • Sort: Let users sort data in ascending or descending order to organize the data to their liking.
  • Filter: Filters can help users narrow down the data. Think of it like a more advanced search function. Users can filter by category, status, date range, you name it.

Multi-select and Bulk Actions

Sometimes, users need to perform actions on multiple items at once. This is where multi-select and bulk actions come in.

  • Multi-select: Let users select multiple rows at once. It can be as simple as adding checkboxes next to each row.
  • Bulk Actions: Once users have selected multiple rows, they’ll need to do something with them. Provide options like bulk delete, bulk edit, or bulk export.

Inline Editing 

The way you can use inline editing with wpDataTables

Inline editing is another neat feature which we have in wpDataTables as well. It lets users click on a piece of data and edit it right there in the table.

No need to go to a separate edit page or pop-up. It’s all about making it fast and effortless for the user.

Expandable Rows and Additional Information Display

Finally, expandable rows. This feature allows users to click on a row to reveal more information.

It’s a great way to keep the interface clean while still providing all the necessary details.

FAQ on Data Tables

What are data tables?

Data tables are a web design element used to display information in a structured, grid-like format of rows and columns. Think of it like a digital spreadsheet. They’re super handy when it comes to organizing and presenting complex data in a simple, easy-to-digest way.

What types of data tables exist?

There are many types of data tables based on their usage and features. Static tables display data without any interactive features.

Interactive tables allow actions like sorting, filtering, or expanding rows for more details. Responsive tables adjust according to the screen size for optimal viewing.

Database tables hold and organize data in a database, like MySQL or SQL Server.

How to design an interactive table?

To design an interactive table, you need to include elements that allow users to manipulate the data.

This could be checkboxes for selecting rows, input fields for editing data, buttons for actions like delete or save, and links for navigating to related information.

Remember to provide clear visual feedback for user interactions, like highlighting the selected row or showing a loading spinner for actions in progress.

How can I make my data tables responsive?

Responsiveness is all about making sure your table looks great on all screen sizes.

One approach is to collapse rows into cards on smaller screens, displaying only key columns and providing a way to view additional details.

Another strategy is to allow horizontal scrolling for the table. It’s also a good idea to prioritize the most important columns to stay visible.

How to style data tables?

Styling data tables involves setting colors, borders, spacing, and fonts. It’s crucial to maintain good contrast for readability.

Use subtle colors and plenty of white space to prevent the table from feeling crowded. Zebra striping, or alternating row colors, can improve scanning.

Make sure header rows stand out, and consider different states like hover or selected for interactive elements.

What are the best practices for accessibility in data tables?

For accessibility, make sure your table is keyboard navigable for those who can’t use a mouse.

Include proper roles and properties for screen readers, like marking header cells with the th tag and using the scope attribute to specify if they are column or row headers. Provide clear instructions for interactive elements.

What kind of information can I put in a data table?

You can put any structured data into a data table. This could be numerical data, like financial figures or performance stats.

It could be textual data, like names or descriptions. It could even be images or icons.

Conclusion on the Types of Data Tables

We’ve taken a deep dive into the world of types of data tables and how they can be effectively used to enhance your website.

From textual, numerical, to mixed data tables, we’ve seen that the power lies in their diversity and flexibility.

Think of your data tables not just as containers for data, but as a powerful tool that can inform, engage, and empower.

If you enjoyed reading this article about the types of data tables, you should also check out this one about interactive data visualization.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like misleading data visualization examples, data visualization tools, data visualization color palette examples, data visualization best practices, and data visualization examples.

Bogdan Radusinovic
Bogdan Radusinovic

Senior SEO and Marketing Specialist

Articles: 137