I read some books about typography and design. They all recommended to avoid lines in tables, and instead to make use of spacing. I found that reasonable and adhered henceforth to those rules.
Recently I ran into discussions with spreadsheet users, who doubted these rules and argued that grid-lines are better since all programs have them turned on by default.
I also read an article that explained the problem with lines: the human eye first has to remove them before it can focus on the content of the table. If somebody would know this one or similar scientific findings about perception of data, I would be glad as well.
Is it in fact better to avoid lines? Why? Do you have any references you could provide to back this up with?
Edward Tufte is the one that coined the term chart junk to refer to extraneous visual elements that tend to clutter, rather than clarify the data being presented.
This can refer to all sorts of things that you tend to see often, but don’t really enhance the understanding and–often–actively interfere with the understanding of the data.
These can include:
- arbitrary color
- 3D effects
- excessive borders
- redundant labels
- zebra striping
I think this animated gif communicates the concept nicely:
Is it better to remove lines? Usually. The point to consider when dealing with chart junk is that you should use only what is necessary to format the data. Anything extra is just that…extra…and likely not enhancing the message.