10+ Solutions for Responsive Data Tables

Having trouble fitting your tables into a responsive site?

They look great on a desktop layout, but look miserable on mobile.

The Basics

First remove any fixed widths from your markup.

Before:

 <table width="540">
  <tr>
    <td width="300">Header 1</td>
    <td width="60">Header 2</td>
    <td>Header 3</td>
    <td>Header 4</td>
  </tr>
</table>

After:

 <table>
  <tr>
    <td>Header 1</td>
    <td>Header 2</td>
    <td>Header 3</td>
    <td>Header 4</td>
  </tr>
</table>

The width attribute is deprecated – better to let the browser size the columns. If you don’t know much about tables, have a read through this massive guide to tables at css tricks.

Basic Styling

First some padding and borders.


table {
    border-collapse: collapse;
    border-spacing: 0;
    border: 1px solid #bbb;
}
td,th {
    border-top: 1px solid #ddd;
    padding: 4px 8px;
}

Then some striped rows (nth-child is not supported by IE8).


tbody tr:nth-child(even)  td { background-color: #eee; }

Mobile-Friendly Table

As the viewport gets smaller, the table width will shrink. However depending on how many columns you have the table which reach a minimum size. This will probably wider than a mobile viewport, and your layout will be broken.

You could allow the table to horizontal scroll, without breaking your layout. First we have to change the display: to block; and set overflow-x: to auto; – You may want to use a media query to only do this for small devices.

Note: It’s better syntax to wrap the table in a DIV that has overflow-x: scroll;


@media screen and (max-width: 640px) {
	table {
		overflow-x: auto;
		display: block;
	}
}

And here’s what we get (this is the amount of caffeine in Starbucks coffee via my site Caffeine Informer). Note that if you have a table that has only a few columns, display: block means they will not resize fit across the full width of the table (if the table is set to 100% width).

DESKTOP

Beverage Short (8 oz) Tall (12 oz) Grande (16 oz) Venti (20-24 oz) Trenta (31oz)
Brewed Coffee 180mg 260mg 330mg 415mg
Brewed Decaf Coffee 15mg 20mg 25mg 30mg
Caffè Americano 75mg 150mg 225mg 300mg

 

MOBILE (scroll to the right)

This is what happens in mobile (320px wide). The user can swipe right and left to horizontal scroll the table.

The trouble is, the user has no indication that they can swipe to the right.

Beverage Short (8 oz) Tall (12 oz) Grande (16 oz) Venti (20-24 oz) Trenta (31oz)
Brewed Coffee 180mg 260mg 330mg 415mg
Brewed Decaf Coffee 15mg 20mg 25mg 30mg
Caffè Americano 75mg 150mg 225mg 300mg

 

ALTERNATIVE MOBILE LAYOUT

If you resize this page (or you are viewing it on a mobile device), you will notice a third layout where the columns have been translated into a single column.

vert-table

Here, I’ve combined the table cell data with its column header.

Now to other much more powerful options…

1. Footable – jQuery

respt1-d

Mobile - 2nd row clicked.

Mobile – 2nd row clicked.

This excellent plugin allows will hide columns of your choosing. When the row is clicked (or tapped) the columns will fold out below the row.

I’ve used an early version of this on Caffeine Informer, and it works well. More recent versions have substantially more features added.

  1. Give your tables the appropriate data attributes (which columns should be hidden by default).
  2. Ensure the breakpoints are correct (default 480px and 1024px).
  3. Call the footable() function for the appropriate tables.

Github: github.com/bradvin/FooTable
Demo and Docs: fooplugins.com/footable-demos

 2. Foundation Zurb – Lock first column

respt2-d

Mobile - first column is locked.

Mobile – first column is locked.

The solution from the Zurb framework is to lock or pin the first column and make the rest of the table scrollable.

To accomplish this they use a small piece of jQuery to manipulate the DOM, and some CSS.

Demo: zurb.com/playground/projects/responsive-tables/index.html

Also see an interesting tutorial on how to add visual cue when the table is going to scroll: design4lifeblog.com/responsive-tables/ — site seems to have disappeared – James.

3. Stacktable

respt3-d

Mobile - everything is one column.

Mobile – everything is one column.

This piece of jQuery will take a table and turn it into one long column of data.

Demo: johnpolacek.github.io/stacktable.js/
Github: github.com/johnpolacek/stacktable.js

4. Responsive Tables

respt4-d

respt4-m

Mobile – Fonts are scaled

This rather intriguing jQuery script will scale font size of the table according to data attributes.

In the above example, the table tag contains two attributes data-max="30" and data-min="11" indicating a minimum and maximum pixel font size.

Github: github.com/ghepting/jquery-responsive-tables
Demo: garyhepting.com/jquery-responsive-tables/

5. Filament Group – Tablesaw

swipe-minimap

This jQuery solution offers all kinds of different options for table display.

fgmode-switch

From selectable columns, to swipable columns. As well as prioritizing columns.

There’s a lot of different options in their github repository. This is truly the kitchen sink of responsive tables.

Github: https://github.com/filamentgroup/tablesaw

6. TablePress – WordPress

respt6-d

respt6-m

Mobile view, header column is locked.

TablePress is a WordPress plugin that utilizes the powerful Datatables jQuery plugin. Datatables is one of the most feature-rich plugins for tables (sorting, filtering, paging, etc).

TablePress has a responsive extension which turns the table on its side, locking the header column in place. Datatables.js is very powerful, but does add considerably to page weight.

TablePress Demo: tablepress.org/demo/
Responsive Extension: tablepress.org/extensions/responsive-tables/

7. ngResponsiveTable

respt7-d

Mobile - data is presented vertically.

Mobile – data is presented vertically.

This small jQuery script will turn each row into its own vertical list. Rather than manipulate the DOM (by adding and removing table cells), it puts the header info as a data attribute (data-content) into each td element. The stylesheet then displays this using content: attr(data-content). Quite a clever idea.

Article: netgenlabs.com/Blog/Responsive-Data-Tables-with-ngResponsiveTables-jQuery-plugin
Demo: http://netgen.github.io/jquery.ngResponsiveTables/

8. Codepen by Charlie Cathcart

This clever example uses CSS to accomplish the save as previous but without any JavaScript.

Demo: http://codepen.io/pixelchar/pen/rfuqK

9. Codepen (Dudley Story)

This uses a short (non-jQuery) Javascript to create data attributes into table cells. Then utilizing a CSS media query takes the attributes to format a mobile display.

Desktop layout

Desktop layout

Mobile

Mobile

Nice work.

Demo: http://codepen.io/dudleystorey/pen/Geprd

11. Codepen (Geoff Yuen)

No Javascript, but requires data attributes to be entered into each cell.

resp11d

Desktop Layout

Mobile LAyout

Mobile Layout

More…

James makes websites and the odd app.
Filed under Responsive Design
Updated: January 25, 2015

54 Comments

  1. Cheers for this post James it has cut out a load of searching for a decent responsive plugin to use with optimisepress 2. Great post

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Nice breakdown on the options of each method. A+ article.

  3. The design4lifeblog page is not there anymore. Does anyone know any other whereabouts of it?

    • You’re right, either the domain was hijacked or the author is AWOL. Alas the page is not even on web.archive.org.

      From memory it showed an overlay or icon that indicated a table could scroll.

      • Hi James – I am not tech savvy so I don’t understand much of what you explained:) My question is simple, can you design an old classic asp, table design site into web responsive design?
        http://www.CrownJewelers.com
        Anyone is welcome to take a look and send me a quote.
        Thanks

  4. Wow! I just saw that mine solution came up here … Great review and thanks for the inclusion! 🙂

    • No problem, thanks for sharing your code.

  5. Great resource. Thanks!

  6. Great.

  7. You missed responsive datatables?

    • I use datatables in a project. It’s the most powerful jQuery plugin for tables you can find.

      However it does not necessarily support responsive out of the box (at least not in v1.10). There a lots of solutions to be found in the datatables forums, including this one: https://github.com/Comanche/datatables-responsive

  8. This is an excellent article. Thank you very much for the responsive table CSS-Code. I think the best way to go is the pure CSS-variant without any Javascript. By the way: I think the table looks much better without the td/th-border.

  9. Thank you! Excellent descriptions and examples.

  10. “Foundation Zurb” don’t works with complex tables. After applying the script the height of the columns does not match the original height and needs additional JS.

    • This is something I made myself. I’ve updated the post to mention it, and I’m in the middle of writing a new post to outline how to do this, with minimal CSS and JS, and without jquery.

  11. Look like you’ve got an extra ; here `padding: 4px; 8px;`

    • Thanks, typo fixed.

  12. Hi, that first coffee table (!) works well from an accessibility perspective. On the iPhone VoiceOver reads the content as a table and you can use gestures to jump to the start of each of the 3 rows.
    Some of the other designs break the table structure.

  13. Amazing article. I’ve been looking for something like this for a looooong time. Cheers for this sum up

    • I liked that solution, but didn’t like the idea of all the extra markup when creating the table.

      • If we were generating it server-side I would be right there with you (for CPU and bandwidth considerations), but because angular is having it happen client-side, I’m less concerned.

    • Nice work and well done.

  14. Thanks for the great resource! I have been looking around for solutions while redesigning a complex table to be responsive, and this list gives me a great start. I will certainly use it for reference and refer others here as well.

    -Kim
    amalgamize.com

    • That’s great. I must do a follow up soon.

  15. Re: MOBILE (scroll to the right) – “… the user has no indication that they can swipe to the right”

    While there is nothing to indicate the swipe to side I believe this is a learnable solution and thus good UX. Swiping up, down, left and right is the ubiquitous method of finding out how mobile web sites and apps work.

    • Excellent solution. Would be great to see some user testing on whether users interact with sidescrolling tables. But I’ve never come across anything.

  16. Great article! Found some good plugins here. I just wanted to tell people about Data Tables (https://www.datatables.net/). It’s a great plugin for everything tables. The extension “Responsive” makes certain columns disappear when screen gets small and creates a + button that gives you a dropdown with all the hidden data. It works kind of like Footable, but it has a whole lot of other functionality also.

  17. +50 thanks a million!

  18. Hi James thanks for an extensive choice for tables, are there any responsive tables that cover’s a pedigree or a 3 generation genealogy table?

    cheers
    pete

  19. how to make responsive table with colspan and rowspan ? please make a sample to me

  20. Great article ..it is useful.thanks

  21. Great article, I wish you have show an example with responsive table and fixed header and 1st column, where header have few “colspan” (few columns have 3 sub-columns) and rows consist of “rowspan” (first row is consist of two rows). I saw some examples but no one support nice look when these features are implemented. Can you please show to us such example? Thanks.

  22. nice work, but i want to more variation in mobile device

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