Tips for better comparison tables

Torresburriel Estudio
4 min readJul 29, 2021

When a user is immersed in a purchasing decision process, it is quite common to compare several products to make a final decision. This is where comparison tables come into play, and our main task as user experience experts is to make them useful and easy to read for users. There is a lot of literature on user behaviour patterns, such as the lawn mower reading pattern.

When shopping, comparison is mostly often done for high-priced products, such as household appliances or electronics, or when we are deciding between different types of subscriptions or software. These types of purchases require effort and some time for consideration.

A well-designed comparison table can help users make a decision faster and feel that they were well-informed. This makes the user experience much more satisfying and has a positive impact on business goals, increasing conversions.

The information on these tables will be relevant to the user if they have all the information they need to make a decision. To do this, they will need to be able to see the differences between the options as clear and obvious as possible.

However, the way in which we present the comparison can involve a very high cognitive load for the user, so we have to take into account a series of guidelines so that our tables are properly optimised.

Criteria for a good comparison table

The first rule for a good comparison table is that products should be in columns and attributes in rows. The problem comes when we do not have enough data and spaces are left unfilled. This should be avoided at all costs, and it is better to present only the attributes for those that you have complete information than to leave blank spaces.

Another useful reading aid is that the rows of the tables have alternating colours, making it easier to compare an attribute for different product options without losing the thread of information when moving from one to another.

In addition, if there are too many attributes, you can use resources such as the accordion, which allows you to group the information in sections, making it visually less lengthy. You can also make the header fixed or sticky, that is, it does not disappear as the data below the table is displayed, so that you know at all times what product each attribute corresponds to.

Likewise, it is very interesting to sort the characteristics presented by those that are similar and those that are different, so that at a glance you will be able to understand where each type of information relevant to decision-making is located.

Also, grouping attributes that have a single value also helps to reduce the cognitive load of the table, easing the understanding of the table and helping to highlight differences in the case of similar products.

It is also important that the language presented in the table is understandable. If only technical and very specific language is used and the user does not understand it, analysing the table will not be helpful.

As we said at the beginning of this post, comparison tables are usually used for products with a longer consideration time and a longer research time, that is, for thoughtful consumer products. This is why it is very likely that the decision will be made by more than one person.

The normal behaviour is to take a screenshot so that you can share it to look at it again in the future. If you want to make this process easier, a good tip is to provide comparison tables with their own URL that can be shared or saved for later.

In terms of the number of items that can be added to a table for comparison, it is most common to allow up to four or five items. If more than 5 items are analysed, the process may become too complex and no longer useful for the user. However, it should be up to the user to make the decision on which items to compare and what specific characteristics they want to visualise.

The key to comparison tables is to facilitate the work involved in the purchase decision when considering various options. As user experience specialists, we must apply all our knowledge to the design process of these elements in order to improve usability.



Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance