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agadd

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Reply with quote  #1 
In the IDD book, zebra striping of tables is given as an instance of non-data pixels that should be removed from dashboards (p. 106).  The suggestion is to use whitespace instead.

I question whether subtle shading of alternate rows in a table adds cognitive load to a dashboard.  Zebra striping might be preferable to whitespace in order to allow a more compact table with higher data density.

I'd like to hear others' thoughts on this.

Ashley

sfew

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Reply with quote  #2 
Ashley,

I thought I should respond to you myself. Using barely visible fill color on alternate rows in a table is perfectly acceptable, if needed to help the reader's eyes track across a row. It is an example of non-data pixels that you should avoid, however, when the table is not wide and white space alone could solve the problem. If the vertical white space between rows that would be needed to solve the problem is greater than the height of the text in a row, rather than exaggerating the amount of white space, using fill color in alternating rows is perfectly acceptable.  Be careful when you do this, however, to make the fill color just visible enough to do the job and no more.

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Stephen Few
agadd

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks, Stephen.  Certainly a moderate approach is reasonable.

I guess my question is a little more specific: what is the drawback to zebra striping that makes you recommend avoiding it?  I can understand proscribing a heavy-handed treatment as it can get distracting, but is there a detriment to using a little light color?

Ashley

sfew

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Reply with quote  #4 
Ashley,

To use background fill color in alternating rows creates a visual difference from one row to the next, which our eyes notice and our brains process. If these differences are needed to delineate the rows, then the fact that our eyes and brains note them is worthwhile. If they are not needed, they are noticeable differences that don't deserve notice. Small gains in processing time can be gained by eliminating visual content that isn't useful.

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Stephen Few
agadd

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Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for the clarification.

Of course, now that I pick the book up to continue where I left off I find myself in the section that addresses my question.

Ashley

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