8 WordPress Plugins and Tools for Designing Beautiful Tables
One of the nice things about creating content in WordPress is that nearly everything you can do in word processing software (e.g. stylize text, add special characters, embed images) can be done right from within the WordPress editor. The one type of functionality that hasn’t yet translated over to WordPress, however, is table design.
Although a table isn’t necessarily a common feature used in web design, it’s a basic enough element that would be great to have included in the default editor settings. That will likely change when Gutenberg goes live and includes functionality that allows users to add table “blocks” to WordPress sites. For now, though, tables are a pain to create if you want to do so by hand.
Thankfully, you won’t have to resort to that. WordPress plugin and theme developers have recognized a need for this–especially as businesses seek out better ways to display professional-looking tables on their site. So, we now have a plentitude of lightweight plugins and builder tools that come equipped with table-building features.
8 Plugins and Tools for Designing Tables in WordPress
Tables can be used for a variety of reasons in WordPress.
- They display data in support of the research or topic discussed on the page.
- They list out product specifications which may be too lengthy, cumbersome, or difficult to understand when written in plain text or even bulleted formats.
- They break out service offerings side-by-side, highlighting the main features as well as prices for each.
- They compare products and other similar items side-by-side to aid visitors in the decision-making process.
- They enable visitors to do calculations of their own (which can be a really smart sales tactic).
Whatever you decide to do with tables in WordPress, your goal should be to do so in the most attractive way possible. Data and lengthy specs lists aren’t always the most exciting things to read (which is why images play such a big role in web design these days), so your tables need more than just the boring Excel treatment.
By using a WordPress plugin or site builder to create your tables, you can do some cool things to make them stand out on your website. In addition, designing tables in WordPress bring the following benefits:
- A cleaner way of displaying data.
- A unique way to add formatting to long patches of text on a page.
- An easier explanation of how different products or services compare to one another.
- A better way to sell customers on certain items if you design tables with subtle hierarchical “preferences” (like making the most popular pricing tier larger and more colorful than the surrounding ones).
- A more efficient method for creating media for your site that’s easy to update. There’s no need to recreate a table outside of WordPress, re-upload, and re-embed. Just make the changes within WordPress.
- A fun way to add interaction to your site (if you build yours like a calculator or apply transition effects to it).
With the following WordPress plugins and tools, you have a variety of options to choose from when designing tables in WordPress. Take a look at the following recommendations and then be sure to keep reading to see how easy they are to use!
If you’ve ever wanted to give clients more control over how they write content without having to introduce them to HTML coding or header tags, you’ve likely already installed the TinyMCE Advanced plugin onto their site. There are a number of additional features this plugin adds to the editor toolbar, including the ability to create tables. Albeit, they’re simple tables, but if that’s all you or your clients need, then this plugin will suffice.
The Data Tables Generator plugin is the next step up in designing simple tables for your WordPress site. On the backend, you’re given an interface similar to the one you’d encounter in Excel. Simply add your data, apply your styles and settings, and then publish. You can create tables, charts, and diagrams with this tool and have more control over formatting than you do with TinyMCE.
This premium WordPress plugin is great for when you have extensive amounts of data outside WordPress that you want to bring in. All you have to do is import your spreadsheet and then get to work on customizing how it appears on your site. While this probably won’t be ideal for pricing tables or product comparisons, it would work well if you’re comparing things like demographics, financials, scores, and so on.
If you like the simplicity and ease of use of the Data Tables Generator plugin, but need something more specialized for designing bold pricing tables, this is another Supsystic plugin that will help in this matter. This pricing table plugin utilizes drag-and-drop to simplify the process of building responsive pricing towers and side-by-side comparisons in WordPress.
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Want to do a little bit more with your pricing tables than just make them look nice? A little animation might be nice. With the Responsive CSS3 Pricing Table plugin, you can create transition effects as users scroll over the various tiers in the pricing table, making it an overall more engaging experience and ensuring that they pay attention to the final details before they decide to purchase.
This is a great WordPress table plugin if you want something that’s easy for your clients to use as there are options for both importing data as well as entering it by hand. They’re likely more comfortable with building tables from spreadsheets anyway, so this will give them that familiar experience while keeping it all within WordPress. This plugin also allows for filtering, sorting, and pagination if you plan to display dozens or even hundreds of rows of data.
The developer of this premium WordPress plugin calls this one a “data manager” and it’s a spot-on description of what it does. Not only can you import large batches of data into WordPress, but you can use their Table Constructor or a visual builder tool like Visual Composer to compile and manage tables on the site. This also happens to be completely customizable, so you don’t have to rely on a limited set of variations to choose from when designing it.
Niche WordPress themes are built with the explicit purpose of streamlining the site-building process for a specific user and/or audience. If you’ve purchased a WordPress theme that offers this type of purpose-driven design and yours is an industry that needs tables in order to more effectively share data with end users, check your theme options to see if table generation is included. Typically, you’ll find this either within the theme’s templates or blocks or within the theme builder tool.
A Simpler Way to Design Tables in WordPress
Once you’ve found your table generation solution, you can start creating tables in WordPress. Typically, you’ll have two options from which you can build tables:
You can import an already-made table from a spreadsheet or URL.
The nice thing about using the TablePress plugin (from the screenshot above) is that when importing a table from an external source, you have three choices for how you use it:
- Create a brand new table.
- Replace an existing table.
- Add the new data to the end of an existing table.
This feature is nice since it’ll spare you from creating multiple versions of the same table within WordPress and will help you keep your database and media folder as light as possible.
You can also create your table from-scratch by choosing the “Add New” option.
The only drawback to this option is that it requires more data entry in order to get all the required fields populated. That said, you ultimately end up at the same place whether you take option 1 or 2:
Here is where you’ll finalize your table, add metadata, and adjust the end user’s settings if you want them to be able to filter or sort the table on the frontend of the site. Of course, if you use a WordPress plugin that comes with more design options or transition effects, you’ll be able to experiment with those here as well.
Once your table is created and saved, you can go ahead and add it to whichever post or page it belongs on. In the case of TablePress, all you need to do is copy the table’s shortcode and then paste it into the page. Here is an example of how your new table will appear on your WordPress site:
It’s as simple as that! No need for extensive coding or customization (that is if you don’t want to do that extra work).
While you might not often need to create tables in WordPress, it would be nice to know that you have the ability to do so quickly and painlessly. Until WordPress adds that functionality into the editor or releases it with Gutenberg, you’ll want to invest in a WordPress plugin or builder tool that includes it.
As the table is often a key element in selling your audience on whatever it is you provide, you’ll want a tool that ensures you do so with clean, clear, and beautiful results. The WordPress plugins and tools mentioned above will get you there.