Column Headers – Power of Contrasts

Remember the prerequisite for professional excel sheets. Make it look like web form, or a desktop application. This tip is the one not related with these prerequisite. Data tables are first choice for visualizing data in excel, and most important thing about these data tables to enable the viewer, to find the information just by quick look. There will another posts for improving that capability of your tables. For now on lets continue with this.

  • Contrasts colors are easiest way to separate the headers from actual data. In all color palettes (Color Palette – Art Side of the Force) you can find some dark colors. Always select the darkest one for headers with one point. Check that whether white text is visible on that background. And go on with light colors for data table part.
  • Direction of the text for header can be very effective but also have risks. First of all, if your data is some text or number somehow longer than your header do not change the direction of the text. You should change the direction of the text when your data is simple binary like “X” or numbers less than 100. After you decided to change the direction of the text by looking your data next step is to choose which direction to choose. There 2 meaningful standard option for this;
    1. Rotate Text Up
    2. Angle Counterclockwise

    Rotate Text Up is the safe choice. You should be careful with the Angle Counterclockwise one. With the angle option your table will look nice but remember make up is not the only issue. it may cause some trouble to viewer for understanding. with 45 degree angled headers it can be confusing to determine the header of the data, but some client may prefer such header so do not directly ignore this option.
    I prefer Angle Counterclockwise headers for such data but not the standard one. By making 75 degree angled headers you can maintain the understandability of the table while give it a perfect view.

  • Always have at least 2 unit bigger font than font of the data itself. Most of the time use bold, but making bold is not a necessity.

Never lose the balance between understandability and the visualization in your sheet. Make the view %25 and check for visualization, then fit your table to the screen and search for some data to check for understandability.

“A good chef never serves his meal without making sure it tastes right.”


Here you can find some example sheets for some color palettes;


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