Objective reasons to center or left-align tables and images within text columns?

First, let me emphasize that while I am asking a question about preference, I am looking for objective reasons to prefer one answer over another. I am not interested in your personal, subjective opinion on which is better. I have no formal design training, so I don’t know if there might any practical reason to prefer one style over another. That’s why I’m here – to consult the experts, not incite wars of opinion.

Setup

I am part of a team working on a new design for our company’s website, and the team and I have a disagreement over whether tables should be centered or left-aligned. If it boils down to a simple matter of subjective taste, I will defer to the team’s preference. However, if there are objective reasons to choose one style over another, I’d like to be able to argue those points.

Here is an example of the alternatives:

Example of table style alternatives

Questions

  1. Is there a generally accepted design rule when it comes to laying out tables and block images on websites?
  2. Are there any objective reasons to prefer one layout over the other?

Update

DA01 pointed out it can depend on context. My team also had this objection when I showed them this question. Here is an example that is more true to the actual site layout.

Example alternatives 2

Answer

Are there any objective reasons to prefer one layout over the other?

Yes. But they’re usually tied to context–namely the specific goals and type of content being displayed.

In other words, yes, one can find objective reasons to do it one way or the other, but it’s going to vary based on the content, users, amount of content, type of tables, etc. And in the end, the subjective aesthetic reasons are likely going to out-weight the objective ones anyways…so I wouldn’t sweat it.

(As an aside, for the small sample tables, I think either looks OK. If the tables are going to get much larger, I’d suggest considering left-aligning the data within the table to make for easier scanning of the columns).

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Kevin K , Answer Author : DA01

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