Examples and Tips
How not to design a table
We reproduce below a table from page 4 of the KPMG publication The Long Term Costs Of Literacy Difficulties (January 2006).
This table is overloaded with distracting colour that misleads the reader over what's important. Such clutter obscures the data making the numbers difficult to read and compare. Furthermore, the data is in no apparent order.
At least as confusing is the fact the table has no title. Bizarre!
A few changes makes this table reader friendly. First, delete the shading and borders that distract the reader from the numbers.
Second, order the data by size and pull sub-totals out so the reader can make quick, accurate comparisons.
Round figures to two places. Rounded numbers are easier to take in, compare and recall later. (Since these figures are estimates, their accuracy - down to the last pound sterling - is spurious anyway)
Finally, the lack of a title is a fundamental barrier to communication. (Readers should not have to refer to the surrounding text to work out what the table is about; tell them.)