Web Table Formatting Affects Readability on Mobile Devices

Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2023

Publication date: April 30, 2023

Chris Tensmeyer, Zoya Bylinskii, Tianyuan Cai, Dave Miller, Ani Nenkova, Aleena Gertrudes Niklaus, Shaun Wallace

Reading large tables on small mobile screens presents serious usability challenges that can be addressed, in part, by better table formatting. However, there are few evidenced-based guidelines for formatting mobile tables to improve readability. For this work, we first conducted a survey to investigate how people interact with tables on mobile devices and conducted a study with designers to identify which design considerations are most critical. Based on these findings, we designed and conducted three large scale studies with remote crowdworker participants. Across the studies, we analyze over 14,000 trials from 590 participants who each viewed and answered questions about 28 diverse tables rendered in different formats. We find that smaller cell padding and frozen headers lead to faster task completion, and that while zebra striping and row borders do not speed up tasks, they are still subjectively preferred by participants.

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