How To Easily Build And Support Tables In Figma — Smashing Magazine

How To Easily Build And Support Tables In Figma

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Andrii is a UX designer with over 14 years of experience in the field. He started as a UX designer in an e-commerce agency and later became a product designer …
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User interface designers work with tables on a daily basis. The table is often a complex combination of text components, lines, rectangles, and icons which could be very difficult to work with, especially if you also need to support different screen resolutions, change the order of columns, and use real-life content. In this article, Andrii shares his approach to managing tables in Figma with a bit less pain.

The table is one of the most painful components designers have to deal with in their daily design lives. The table element is often a complex combination of text components, lines, rectangles, icons, and more. It soon may become a nightmare to work with, especially if you also want to support different screen resolutions, change the order of columns, and use real-life content.

In my projects, approximately half of the user interface designs I am working on are tables. This is why in this article, I’d like to share my approach to managing tables in Figma in an easier, more streamlined way.

I’m not a fan of long reads with too many unnecessary details, so I’ll “jump” into the subject right away. My guide consists of several parts; thus, you can stop reading at any point when you understand that what you have learned so far covers your needs at the moment, and you can go back/or jump forward to any section when you want to refresh your memory or learn about the more complex workflows. Let’s go!

Note: This article is aimed at people with some experience using Figma Design. If you are an absolute beginner in the Figma field, I would suggest first checking some basic Figma tutorials. To make things easier for you, near the end of the article (check section), I have provided my Figma Design which you can use for deconstruction and learning purposes.

Cells And Table Structure

I often use the Ant Design System in my projects. Let’s take their table components as an example.

To start, we need to make only two simple components in Figma:

Use Left and Center in Constraints to align the text.

Then we need to copy the components for our future table:

Now we have to set the space between the cells and create the components: Alt/Option + Ctrl/Cmd + K.

Useful tip: I have used zero spacing in the example below, but if you need vertical lines, use 1 px.

Useful tip: I recommend naming the components on every level. Organise everything early, organise everything thoroughly!

How to create the table lines? Start here:

And now, let’s say that we need a table with the following parameters:

How did I do it? Here are the steps:

To help you better imagine how it works, here is a quick illustration that I made:

The frame is for coloring the table lines between the rows and the table stroke (the outside table border). And you will need to add “crop frame content” and “corner radius” to shape the table.

If you add “Auto layout,” it would work like this:

Use Ctrl/Cmd + C and Ctrl/Cmd + V to add lines, and Delete to remove some of them.

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Real Data And Column Size Corrections

Now let’s fill the table with some data. Hold Ctrl/Cmd to highlight text layers in the frame.

I use the Content reel plugin for this purpose.

You can use “Auto layout” to change the columns’ order and size:

As a result, you would get this behavior. Hold Shift and double-click to highlight it, then resize the column.

Responsive Tables

Now I want to make this table responsive for different screens.

The expected results:

For this, we need Auto layout and to use a horizontal frame Fixed size option for the rows:

For fixed-size cells, we apply Fixed horizontally:

For the responsive cells, we need to set Fill horizontally:

Then we turn this table into a Frame, and every row inside the Frame should have horizontal Constraints set as Left and right:

Voilà, we’re fully responsive now!

Basic Table Kit And States

Even for a simple project, you need more states.

Let’s build a basic kit for a table and link new combinations to the two primary components as variants.

The kit structure:

Using any icon library, you can have a few hundred icons. As a result, this can push you to inconsistency (using different icons for the same goals, for example), especially if you have more than one designer on your team. Table icons as a separate library will help you manage and support consistency on big projects.

There are a few main combinations we have:

Avoid hidden layers! You will know that you used them while building a design system, and you will certainly forget about them later. In addition, people who will use your design system may not know about these hidden layers at all.

You will have an idea of how to create them based on the illustration above (Building a basic table kit), but I’ll specify a few more complex components for beginner designers.

The first one is simple:

And we use Auto layout with the following parameters in the second component example:

So, remember the table that we built using only two components? It’s time to update it!

The main idea of this article was to learn how to be more flexible with tables in Figma. And as I have demonstrated, in the beginning, you need to create only two simple components, then do some wire-framing, and finally, when you need to breathe more “life” into your table, just add more states.

Also, you can use “Figma Properties” to make it compact. All the instructions you can find in the following tutorial video created by the Figma team during Figma Config 2022: “Jumping into component properties.”

It’s only one example of how I structured the basic table kit in this article. You can use a similar workflow or create your own. In my projects, kits are much more complex, so I’ll leave this choice to you.

Figma Design File

I have prepared a that may help you go through some of the steps of my tutorial. If you have questions or need help, do post your questions in the comments section at the end of the article.

The way I am working with tables in Figma is not as black and white. The approach mainly depends on the product you’re designing and, of course, there are a few possible ways you could achieve the same goals.

Here are a few general recommendations I can make from my own practice:

Thank you for following me along! As I already said, tables are a complex component, and I can talk about this topic for days. But maybe better to stop here and give you a chance to try this approach for yourself. Then, if you have questions, I’d be happy to reply and help! Or I could write another article: “Working With Tables in Figma: The Pro Level.” 😉

Further Reading

I have collected a few links to resources (tutorials, plugins, discussions, etc.) related to working with tables in Figma:

I spend my whole Figma life designing tables. I imagine other designers too. @figma can you please give us more features, like draggable horizontal rows AND vertical columns? Moving data around should be super easy, like Google Sheets.

— Joshua Sortino (@sortino)

I have a love/hate relationship with tables, so here’s how I set up my design system to make things easier. Rows vs. columns, cell variants, and a “module” component with a variable toolbar and variable pagination.

— Jon Moore (@TheJMoore)

We hear tables in @figma are hard, and we agree.

Here’s how we leveraged our internal design tools to create a more seamless workflow for designers across the @DesigningUber team ➡️

— Vincent van der Meulen (@vincentmvdm)

A short Twitter thread on this topic, also mentioning the Configurator plugin that Vincent’s team made.

I found a pretty reliable way to create flexible, responsive custom tables in Figma. I’ll do a video walkthrough at some point, but if you want to play…

— Buzz Usborne (@buzzusborne)

Did I make a full video about building tables in Figma? Yes. Do I regret going down this rabbit hole? Also yes. ??️

— Buzz Usborne (@buzzusborne)

Tips time!

Using component props, we can create “infinite tables”

So we can toggle on however many columns / rows we need in designs

This prevents us maintaining large variant sets for every permutation of table ?

Community file to play with:

— luis. (@disco_lu)

Note: This technique is interesting if you have just a few tables in the product design. Otherwise it would be a problem to scale the system.

As you can see, dealing with tables is a “hot topic” ? in the Figma design community! I hope that you could find something useful here, too.

Smashing Editorial
(mb, yk, il)

This content was originally published here.