RSS
 

Top 10 CSS Table Designs

13 Aug
Vitaly Friedman & Sven Lennartz via Smashing Magazine shared by 9 people

By R. Christie

Tables got to be one of the most difficult objects to style in the Web, thanks to the cryptic markup, amount of detail we have to look over to, and lack of browser compatibility. A lot of time could be wasted on a single table although it’s just a simple one. This is where this article comes in handy. It will show you ten most easily implemented CSS table designs so you can style your tables in a zap!

Top 10 CSS Table Designs

First things first

We start with a valid xhtml 1.0 strict markup. Here is an example of a valid table markup:

<!-- Table markup-->

<table id="...">

	<!-- Table header -->

		<thead>
			<tr>
				<th scope="col" id="...">...</th>
				...
			</tr>
		</thead>

	<!-- Table footer -->

		<tfoot>
	        <tr>
	              <td>...</td>
	        </tr>
		</tfoot>

	<!-- Table body -->

		<tbody>
			<tr>
				<td>...</td>
				...
			</tr>
			...
		</tbody>

</table>

You can read more about xhtml table markup in HTML Dog’s Table Section. I have tested the tables below in Mozilla Firefox 3, IE 6 and 7, Opera 9.x and Safari. Also note that I apply a light blue color scheme to all of these tables to give the article a consistent look. You can modify the color scheme to match your site — the source package is provided in the end of the article.

Before we start, let’s review the general rule of thumb for styling of tables:

  1. Tables love space. Set the width of tables carefully, according to the content. If you don’t know the perfect width, simply set the width of the table to 100%. Tables look nicer when they have “overwidth”, and when it comes to tables too much width is definitely better than too little width.
  2. Cells need some distance. Sure, each table cell relates to each other. But it doesn’t mean that we have to pull them too close, right? Define some space between the cells, crammed up table cells are so much harder to read.
  3. Treat tables the way you treat content. Tables are read similarly to the way we read text — except it’s harder and it takes more time to read a table. So be careful with the amount of contrast you are giving to your table. Use soft colors — it’s easier for the eyes. Don’t treat your table like it’s a graphical decoration. Make sure that the style you apply to it makes the content more readable, not the other way around.

Now that we are all set up let’s get going, shall we?

1. Horizontal Minimalist

Horizontal tables are tables that are read rather horizontally than vertically. Each entity is represented by a row. You can style these types of tables with minimalist style. Simply set enough padding to the cells (td and th) and put a 2 pixel border underneath the header.

Employee Salary Bonus Supervisor
Stephen C. Cox $300 $50 Bob
Josephin Tan $150 - Annie
Joyce Ming $200 $35 Andy
James A. Pentel $175 $25 Annie

Because horizontal tables are supposed to be scanned horizontally, clearing the border of the table increases the efficiency of the table. The lack of border, however, makes this table design hard to read if it has too many rows. To counter it we simply add 1 pixel border underneath all td elements:

Employee Salary Bonus Supervisor
Stephen C. Cox $300 $50 Bob
Josephin Tan $150 - Annie
Joyce Ming $200 $35 Andy
James A. Pentel $175 $25 Annie

The tr:hover rules are very useful to aid people reading a minimally designed tables. When the mouse cursor hovers over a cell, the rest of the cells in the same row highlights immediately, making it easier to track things if your tables have multiple columns.

Important!
Carefully finetune the typography and the padding between the cells
Pros
Very easy to style, good for simple tables
Cons
tr:hover rules don’t work in IE 6, table can be confusing if it has too many columns
Play with
Color scheme, typography, tr:hover effects

2. Vertical Minimalist

Although rarely used, a vertically read table is useful in categorizing or comparing descriptions of objects, with each entity represented by a column. We can style it in minimalist style by creating white space separators between columns.

Comedy Adventure Action Children
Scary Movie Indiana Jones The Punisher Wall-E
Epic Movie Star Wars Bad Boys Madagascar
Spartan LOTR Die Hard Finding Nemo
Dr. Dolittle The Mummy 300 A Bug’s Life

Add large size border-left and border-right with the same color as background. You can use transparent borders if you want, but IE 6 screws it all up. Since this is a vertically read table, adding tr:hover does not help, instead hindering the effort to read it. There is perhaps a Javascript way to highlight the whole column when a mouseover event occurs, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Important!
Carefully fine tune the typography and the padding between the cells, do not add tr:hover effect
Pros
Easy to style, good for simple tables
Cons
Cannot be used if background is not a solid block of color, suitable only for some tables
Play With
Color scheme and typography

3. Box

The most dependable of all style, the box style works for all kinds of tables. Pick a good color scheme and then distribute background-color to all the cells. Don’t forget to accentuate the differences of each cell by giving border as a separator. An example of box style table is as such:

Employee Salary Bonus Supervisor
Stephen C. Cox $300 $50 Bob
Josephin Tan $150 - Annie
Joyce Ming $200 $35 Andy
James A. Pentel $175 $25 Annie
Comedy Adventure Action Children
Scary Movie Indiana Jones The Punisher Wall-E
Epic Movie Star Wars Bad Boys Madagascar
Spartan LOTR Die Hard Finding Nemo
Dr. Dolittle The Mummy 300 A Bug’s Life

This style is probably the most used style in the internet. The tricky part is actually trying to find the color scheme that matches with your site. If your site is heavy on graphics, it will be pretty hard to use this style.

Important!
Choose a color scheme that matches with your site
Pros
Easy to style, flexible for large or small tables
Cons
Choosing the perfect color scheme could be tricky
Play with
Colors and borders, use dashed or dotted to achieve cute effects, typography, icons

4. Horizontal Zebra

Zebra style tables are pretty attractive and usable. The different background color can serve as a visual cue for people when scanning the table. To style a table as zebra, simply put a class="odd" every odd ordered tr tags and define a style for it.

	...

		<tr class="odd">
		   <td>...</td>
		   ...
		</tr>

		<tr>
		   <td>...</td>
		   ...
		</tr>

	...
Employee Salary Bonus Supervisor
Stephen C. Cox $300 $50 Bob
Josephin Tan $150 - Annie
Joyce Ming $200 $35 Andy
James A. Pentel $175 $25 Annie
Important!
Do not put too much contrast on the zebra colors, you can blind your viewer
Pros
The zebra pattern can help people scan the table
Cons
Adding class="odd" manually can be very tedious for large tables, many content management system does not provide even odd features on a table loop, picking the color scheme may be tricky
Play With
Contrasting color, borders, typography, icons

5. Vertical Zebra Style

Vertical zebra is easier to style than the horizontal one, as we can make use of colgroup and col elements to distribute column classes. The code becomes something like this:

<table>

		<!-- Colgroup -->
	   <colgroup>
	      <col class="vzebra-odd">
	      <col class="vzebra-even">
	      <col class="vzebra-odd">
	      <col class="vzebra-even">
	   </colgroup>

		<!-- Table header -->
	   <thead>
	      <tr>
	         < scope="col" id="vzebra-comedy">Employee</th>
	         ...
	      </tr>
	   </thead>

	   ...
</table>

The colgroup element actually applies a style or class to the table, columnwise. Instead of tediously giving class to the first td or th element, we can use a more convenient colgroup. For more information about colgroup visit this source.





Comedy Adventure Action Children
Scary Movie Indiana Jones The Punisher Wall-E
Epic Movie Star Wars Bad Boys Madagascar
Spartan LOTR Die Hard Finding Nemo
Dr. Dolittle The Mummy 300 A Bug’s Life

Although perhaps more suitable for vertically read table, this zebra style can also be used for any kind of table.

Important!
Do not put too much contrast on the zebra colors, you can blind your viewer
Pros
Suitable for all types of tables
Cons
Choosing the color scheme could be tricky, need to add colgroup elements
Play With
Contrasting color, borders, colgroup and col, icons and typography

6. One Column Emphasis

In some tables, a column may have higher hierarchy than the rest. If that’s the case, you can use colgroup and col to make that particular column stands out. In the example below, the first column serve as the starting point to read, so it is emphasized, just like we emphasize the first letter of the paragraph as drop caps:


Company Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Microsoft 20.3 30.5 23.5 40.3
Google 50.2 40.63 45.23 39.3
Apple 25.4 30.2 33.3 36.7
IBM 20.4 15.6 22.3 29.3

You can also use one column emphasis technique to point out something important, say the column containing totals of an accounting table, or in a comparison table - for computer specification perhaps, the winning entity (column).

Important!
Be careful, don’t overdo the emphasis or the column will jump out, distracting the effort to read the rest of the columns.
Pros
Very effective when used in certain kind of tables
Cons
The necessary tr:hover effect does not work in IE, suitable for certain types of tables only
Play with
Color scheme, typography, icons and tr:hover effects

7. Newspaper

To achieve newspaper effect, apply border to table element and play with the cells inside. A quick, minimalist newspaper style can look like this:

Company Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
Microsoft 20.3 30.5 23.5 40.3
Google 50.2 40.63 45.23 39.3
Apple 25.4 30.2 33.3 36.7
IBM 20.4 15.6 22.3 29.3

Simply play with color scheme, borders, padding, backgrounds, and tr:hover effects of the cells (td and th). Other alternatives is presented below:

Company Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
The above data were fictional and made up, please do not sue me
Microsoft 20.3 30.5 23.5 40.3
Google 50.2 40.63 45.23 39.3
Apple 25.4 30.2 33.3 36.7
IBM 20.4 15.6 22.3 29.3
Favorite Great Nice Bad
Passion of the Christ Bourne Ultimatum Shoot ‘Em Up Ali
The Big Fish The Mummy Apocalypto Monster
Shawshank Redemption Cold Mountain Indiana Jones Dead or Alive
Greatest Story Ever Told I Am Legend Star Wars Saw 3
Important!
Be careful with border-collapse, do not lose the signature border around the table!
Pros
Gives a royal, authorative aura to a table easily
Cons
Unsuitable for large tables (it loses it’s charm on large tables)
Play With
Typography, color scheme, background, border, padding, and tr:hover effects

8. Rounded Corner

Rounded corners are slick and modern, and it’s easy to apply it to a table, although you need to fire up your photoshop for this. Create images for all four corners of your table. Theoretically, we can make use of the nesting tr and td elements to place the left and right corners of the table without adding additional markup. Unfortunately, IE 6 goes berserk and the table was ugly, so the most stable way to do this is to put ID or class to all four corner cells of the table. You can see the example below:

Company Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
The above data were fictional and made up, please do not sue me  
Microsoft 20.3 30.5 23.5 40.3
Google 50.2 40.63 45.23 39.3
Apple 25.4 30.2 33.3 36.7
IBM 20.4 15.6 22.3 29.3
Pros
Great if you want untraditional table, probably the only viable option you have if your website uses rounded corners heavily
Cons
Takes longer time to style, needs images
Play With
Color scheme, corner variations, typography, tr:hover effects, icons

9. Table Background

If you want a quick and unique way to style your table, simply pick an attractive image or photo related to the subject of your table and set it to be the background-image of the table. You can add 50% grey PNG as background-image of the cells to improve readability, and that means a css hack to make it work in IE 6:

* html table tbody td
{

		  /* IE CSS Filter Hack goes here*/

}

The table would look like this:

Employee Division Suggestions
IE 6 users won’t see the transparent background if the hack is not applied
Stephen C. Cox Marketing Make discount offers
Josephin Tan Advertising Give bonuses
Joyce Ming Marketing New designs
James A. Pentel Marketing Better Packaging
Important!
Make sure the image is relevant to the table’s contents
Pros
Very easy to style, delivers unique look, if used correctly the image can serve as a symbol that gives outstanding impression on the viewer
Cons
Needs hack to get the background work in IE 6, needs images
Play With
Background images, transparent PNGs, typography, colors, icons

10. Cell Background

You can apply background-image to the cells and achieve a consistent look. Say you have at least half an hour to spare - and you want something that’s not too bland. Start your Photoshop and make 1 pixel width gradients, and set them as background-image of all cells. You’ll end up with a gradient style table:

Employee Division Suggestions Rating
Give background color to the table cells to achieve seamless transition
Stephen C. Cox Marketing Make discount offers 3/10
Josephin Tan Advertising Give bonuses 5/10
Joyce Ming Marketing New designs 8/10
James A. Pentel Marketing Better Packaging 8/10

Similarly, pick a pattern and set it as background-image and you’ll end up with a pattern style table:

Employee Salary Bonus Supervisor
Stephen C. Cox $300 $50 Bob
Josephin Tan $150 - Annie
Joyce Ming $200 $35 Andy
James A. Pentel $175 $25 Annie
Nation Capital Language Unique
Japan Tokyo Japanese Karate
South Korea Seoul Korean Ginseng
China Beijing Mandarin Kung-Fu
Indonesia Jakarta Indonesian Batik
Important!
Make sure the text stands out of the background
Pros
Easy to style, not too bland
Cons
Uses images, patterns and gradients might distract reading
Play With
Color scheme, patterns, typography, borders, backgrounds, gradients, icons

Final Words

I know I barely scratched the surface when I did this article, so grab the source and play around. Feel free to post your favourite table designs, especially if it’s something I miss out. Over to you.

About the author

R.Christie is studying information systems at college. He viciously juggles activities from college, web design, programming, church, to sport activities. You can say hello to him via e-mail.

Editor’s note

This post is one of the finalists of our guest author contest. Over three weeks selected top-10-lists and discussion articles will be published. To rate the articles we’ll analyze their popularity, users activity, quality of backlinks, traffic and further data.

How good is the post “Top 10 Express CSS Table Designs”?
( polls)

 
Comments Off on Top 10 CSS Table Designs

Posted in Uncategorized

 

Tags: