Alternative Solutions to Tables

Using Plain Text #

In some cases a table might be simple enough to describe its data with a couple sentences or by employing another structure such as plain text and a List. If your table is conveying little information, consider what the table is trying to illustrate, then write it in your own words. Break down the data into manageable chunks and then describe that in your content. Most of the time a simple table could be represented with a few sentences.

Comparison of (before) an HTML Table and (after) using Plain Text.
This example is from an old Apply page, and shows the original table's data turned into sentences, which are then listed in a Bulleted List (Plain Text Alternative).

Using Structured Headings #

In other instances we can take advantage of Headings and Subheadings to reformat the table's data. The data would be reformatted to look like a standard content Heading structure. This format will not only make it easier to interpret for assistive technology (such as screen readers), but will also show up more clearly in search results.

Comparison of (before) an HTML Table and (after) using Structured Headings.
This example is from an old Course Listing. The original table's data has been turned into Headings and Subheadings (Structured Headings Alternative).

Using PDFs or Excel Documents #

In the case where the table's data is extensive or cannot be broken down in a meaningful way, it might be represented better in a document. Creating an Excel Spreadsheet or a Google Document, then linking to the document from your website would be a better alternative. However, to ensure everyone has access to read the data, save documents in a PDF format whenever possible.