Everyone looks to spreadsheets to provide easy to read data, but can they also be beautiful? With a few tips and tricks they can be! Try a few of these tips in your next sheet to make it stand out from the crowd.
1. Use Color… But Not Too Much
Excel gives you access to thousands of colors you can use to jazz up your cells. Take advantage of the colors available, but be sure to exercise some restraint. You do not want to overwhelm your reader with bright, contrasting colors. Instead, use a background color on title cells and switch the font to a contrasting, easily readable shade. This will make your title cells pop without unintentionally blinding your reader.
2. Add a Background
Adding a background image will give your spreadsheet depth and interest. Just like with coloring, though, it’s easy to go too far. Use a simple background behind your data. A slight tint or a gradation is sufficient. Make sure it complements the colors used in your title cells and charts. Always check for readability when using a background image – avoid using anything that will make it difficult for your readers to see the data.
3. Align Your Data on the Left
Many spreadsheets use a center alignment for data. Avoid doing this. Despite popular opinion, center aligned data is not easier to read. The eye has to work harder to follow the line of text, slowing down comprehension. It also gives the data an unsightly, ragged silhouette. Align your data with the left side of the cell to create a smooth edge. This makes the spreadsheet look better and makes it easier to take the data in.
4. Use a Graph
Graphs add interest to your sheet and give your reader a different way to think about the data you are providing. You can use the graph making tool integrated into Excel to quickly and easy turn your data into a graph. When creating this visual representation of data, keep in mind the color scheme you are using in the rest of the spreadsheet. Choose colors that allow your graph to pop without clashing with the rest of the design scheme.
5. Zebra Striping
Line after line of data can make your readers go cross-eyed. Make it easy to read each line of text by adding zebra striping. Zebra striping refers to adding a background color to every other row. As with most other aspects of designing spreadsheets, it is easy to go overboard with this tool. Use a very slightly tinted shade to add contrast without overwhelming the eye.
6. Using Headers
Headers can help break up your data, making it easier for your readers to find the information they need. They can also add visual appeal. Do something different with your headers that you use nowhere else in the spreadsheet. This could mean making them bold, in all caps, italicized, or anything else that you prefer. They will be effective as long as they look different from the rest of the sheet.
7. Embrace the White Space
While you’re demonstrating your Excel skills, make sure you don’t go a little too far the eye candy. You may have formatted your cells so they are just big enough to fit the information that is in them. This helps include more information into one space, but it also makes the spreadsheet look cramped. Unless you are trying to save on printing costs, there is no reason not to give your sheet a little room to breathe. Add just enough height and width to the cells so the data stands out clearly.
There is no reason that spreadsheets can’t be functional and attractive. Even a little bit of time spent beautifying your next sheet will create a great impression on whoever looks at it.
- License: Image author owned
Sarah Jackson is a business writer and Associate Editor at Proformative.