Designing Tables to be Read, Not Looked At

Richard Rutter, in support of his new book Web Typography, shares loads of great advice on data table design. Here's a good one:

You might consider making all the columns an even width. This too does nothing for the readability of the contents. Some table cells will be too wide, leaving the data lost and detached from its neighbours. Other table cells will be too narrow, cramping the data uncomfortably. Table columns should be sized according to the data they contain.

I was excited to be reminded of the possibility for aligning numbers with decimals:

td { text-align: "." center; }

But the support for that is non-existent as best I can tell. Another tip, using font-variant-numeric: lining-nums tabular-nums; does have some support.

Tables can be beautiful but they are not works of art. Instead of painting and decorating them, design tables for your reader.

Design Better Data Tables

Matthew Ström on how data tables can be better through things like alignment, rules, labels, backgrounds, and the type of numerals used:

Oldstyle figures look nice in sentences, where they better match the size and spacing of lower-case letters; lining figures are more uniform, and reinforce the grid-like structure of the table.