Behind any graphs, charts and even flowcharts there is data, big data, usually stored in tables.
To keep data in tables is useful, but tables are not convenient for presentations or communication. All graphs are intended to make the presentation of data clearly and simply. But are tables always that bad?
In many cases, working with tables is familiar. We all use public transport schedules on a regular basis and understand it well.
Report Cards in schools and universities do their jobs perfectly adequately in a table format.
Wouldn’t you think that finding your mark on a chart would be more difficult? Weather forecast is also easy to read in a table format.
What’s wrong with tables? Why do we try to avoid using them? If we don’t know the subject well, we come face-to-face with our problems immediately. It takes time to understand what each column means, which units are used and why? Once we have overcome the first steps, we are left with the question: what does it all mean? When it comes for weather, it’s clear that +30 is hot and +15 is cool. But if it’s a table of expenses, to note where we spent too much is not such an easy task.
But if we will put the table in order, it is much more informative and helpful than any chart. Let’s go back to Loan Amortization Schedule table.
Let’s polish our table. Any line-crossings are visually-complex elements. Even one cross can distract, and when there are dozens of them, we just can’t see anything else. Let’s get rid of the table lines:
To read the data quickly, we make some space between the columns:
With all this, we have limited the visibility of the least important information in our chart. We address to it seldom, so there is no need to make it prominently visible. This concludes the first steps in formatting a table.
The entire timeline is a bit less than two years. One typical mistake when using dates is that it is easy to include excessive information. Don’t indicate the year in each date. In many cases, showing just the month and day is enough.
All the other columns of tables indicate money. Moreover, a specific currency: Dollars. So, there is no need to add the dollar sign at each table cell.It is better to align sums by the right side to allow for easy numerical comparison:
Last touch — mark the sections with different colors numbers, highlighting the most relevant information in your chart:
Thus, we have all of our information in a legible easy-to-read format. An important difference between tables and schedules is their credibility. That’s why we have a greater confidence in their accuracy. Any column can be double-checked, because we have ALL the data in front of us.
Yes, graphics and charts are more eye-catching, but often they don’t have nearly as much real information as a chart of the raw data.