Does it Actually Assist? – A Record Aside

Zebra striping—often known as sweet striping or half-shadow—is the appliance of faint shading to alternate strains or rows in information tables or types. Examples of internet sites that use zebra striping embody the foreign money website XE, the CIA World Factbook, and Zebra striping on the internet is definitely a carryover from print days: one of many first mentions of the method appeared in 1961 [1].

Article Continues Beneath

Many consider that zebra stripes assist the reader by guiding the attention alongside the row. Nonetheless, regardless of being in use in each paper and digital mediums for nearly half a century, there may be virtually no proof that it really assists customers on this method. In June and July 2007, I performed an in depth evaluate of sources such because the Worldwide Affiliation of Paper Historians, the Enterprise and Kinds Administration Affiliation, and the IEEE Annals of the Historical past of Computing, however discovered completely no data on the origins of or rationale behind zebra striping.

But making use of zebra striping in an digital medium is a nontrivial process. A Record Aside is only one writer of an article about how one can do zebra striping. As net designers, we definitely can not afford to be spending time coding an method that isn’t really useful! So, I made a decision to conduct a research to see whether or not zebra striping actually does make issues simpler.

Measuring “simpler”#section2

Zebra striping is used when information is offered in an primarily tabular kind. The consumer of that desk can be in search of a number of information factors. Their intention is to get the proper factors and get them as shortly as potential. Due to this fact, if we set a process that makes use of a desk, and zebra striping does make issues simpler, then we’d count on to see enhancements in two issues: accuracy and velocity.

I designed an experiment whereby members got information in a tabular kind and requested to make use of that information to reply six questions. Three of the questions have been requested when the desk had zebra striping (i.e., was “striped”) and three of the questions have been requested when the desk didn’t have zebra striping (i.e., was “plain”).

The questions requested when the desk was striped paralleled the questions requested when the desk was plain. That’s, questions have been “paired” in order that for every query there was a striped model and a plain model. This enabled us to measure the affect of zebra striping.

Members have been randomly assigned to which format they obtained first, striped or plain, to take away any order results. The experiment was described solely as “a research of desk formatting.” The experiment was performed by way of the web, which, whereas having its issues, was environment friendly and price efficient. Two weeks of experimentation yielded usable information from 244 individuals.

The info desk, proven beneath, had 15 rows (together with a heading row) and 9 columns. It contained synthetic information, which was loosely primarily based on frequent descriptors for screws. For instance, one of many questions was “is the screw with minor diameter tolerance of 6g out there on the manufacturing facility outlet?”

zebra striped data table

Zebra striped information desk, with 15 rows (together with a heading row) and 9 columns.

The intention was to assemble a desk that:

  • was massive sufficient to supply a cognitive problem for members,
  • was not so massive as to require scrolling—both horizontally or vertically—within the majority of instances,
  • contained information that was not significantly acquainted to members, lowering the prospect that they’d simply “know” the reply with out having to make use of the desk, and
  • included information in numerous totally different types, together with numeric and alphabetic, names, symbols, costs and portions.

Aside from the presence or absence of zebra striping, there have been no adjustments made to the desk throughout the experiment.

Word: There’s a lot of statistics behind these outcomes that I received’t bore you with, however you may obtain the full-length, peer-reviewed paper (PDF, 320K).


Despite the fact that I attempted to make the duty a bit troublesome, members acquired a lot of the solutions proper—the error charge on all questions was 12% or much less.

Questions that had significantly low errors charges—e.g., query one with an error charge of two%—have been excluded from the rest of the evaluation, as a result of the findings they yielded could be unreliable. This left one pair of parallel questions: query three and query six. Because the graph beneath reveals, there was primarily no distinction in accuracy between the striped-table and plain-table variations of those questions.

accuracy graph

Graph indicating distinction in accuracy between the striped and plain desk variations of the questions.

Additional evaluation of those information confirmed that certainly there have been no statistically vital distinction in accuracy between striped solutions and plain solutions.


Even when there have been no enchancment in accuracy, an enchancment in velocity could be useful.

Because the chart beneath reveals, the common noticed time taken to reply questions one and two was larger when the desk was zebra striped, however for the remaining 4 questions, the time taken was much less when the desk was zebra striped (see Desk 5 within the peer-reviewed paper). Nonetheless, solely the distinction in time taken for query six was statistically vital, which means we are able to’t make certain that the opposite variations weren’t right down to the actual pattern we ended up with.

speed graph

Graph indicating distinction in time taken to reply questions between the striped and plain desk variations.


On the finish of the six questions that referred to the info desk, members have been requested for his or her private desire with regard to zebra striping.

General, the best proportion of members most popular zebra striping (46%), however a good portion had no desire in any respect (33%).

So there’s no level in zebra striping?#section8

This experiment yielded no proof that zebra striping persistently improves the accuracy or velocity of duties. This would appear to recommend that we shouldn’t hassle with zebra striping anymore.

Nonetheless, there are just a few arguments in opposition to tossing zebra striping out altogether.

Firstly, on this research there was a subjective desire for striped tables over plain. My studying and discussions with others recommend numerous individuals discover zebra-striped tables extra aesthetically pleasing. If many customers like zebra striping (and one other massive group aren’t fussed both method), then why not apply it?

Secondly, this was only one experiment, with one dataset. It’s potential that the actual design of this experiment meant that zebra striping had little impact. In different instances, significantly when there may be appreciable area between columns and/or the consumer is required to scroll horizontally, a extra pronounced impact might have been noticed.

Lastly, and maybe most apparently, numerous members within the research spontaneously reported utilizing their finger, on or over the pc display, to comply with down columns and throughout rows. Different members used their mouse to focus on rows of curiosity. These individuals have been, in impact, creating their very own “non permanent” zebra striping. So we could also be lowering the burden on our customers if we do the zebra striping for them.

The choice is yours#section9

Sadly, this research hasn’t given us a transparent reply about whether or not or to not proceed making use of zebra stripes to tabular information. Nonetheless, it didn’t give any indication that zebra striping makes issues worse, and we do know that it’s favored by numerous customers, so it definitely doesn’t appear to trigger a lot hurt.

On the finish of the day, the choice about whether or not to make use of zebra striping in all probability comes right down to a subjective evaluation of seemingly features versus the price of implementation.

Take part within the follow-up research#section10

Formulate is at the moment conducting a follow-up research to assist handle among the questions that arose from the analysis described on this article. The research takes lower than 5 minutes. Many members are wanted to attain legitimate outcomes.

To do the research, go to To study extra, learn in regards to the research.


[1] Advert for Philip Hano Firm Inc. showing in Sadauskas, W.B., Handbook of Enterprise Kinds. Workplace Publications Inc., New York, 1967, 187.

Leave a Comment