Last Updated on January 15, 2021 by Jake Sheridan
Spreadsheets don’t have to look boring. Learn the Google Sheets formatting tips to make your spreadsheets look awesome.
Making Google Sheets look good is easy.
But formatting a spreadsheet isn’t just rolling a turd in glitter (no offence to any members of the turd community out there 💩).
It’s all about adding style so your data is easy to read and even easier to interpret. When properly formatted, you’ll have people actually wanting to read your spreadsheets.
Ready to learn a few google sheets formatting tricks? Let’s go:
Spreadsheet design 101
A well designed spreadsheet not only looks good, but is also easy to understand. Spreadsheets are meant to be read and understood. They are communication tools.
With just a few tips, you can improve the look of your Google Sheets:
- Choose a good looking font – You know the drill. A sans-serif font like Helvetica or Calibri look good for presenting data. And don’t over do it, no more than two font styles per sheet.
- Align your data – Best practice dictates to left align text data and right align numerical data. Why? Because it improves the readability and consistency in your spreadsheet.
- Give your data some (white) space – Give your data extra room by adjusting the column width and height. Avoid autofit, set your column widths manually and keep them consistent. Oh, and use whole numbers.
- Use your head(ers) – Help users understand the data you’re showing them with clear headers. Make them bold and add some colour…
- Add a splash of colour – Choose colours wisely and limit it to just the two. Make sure they work well together and help make your data easier to understand
- Shade alternate rows – Use conditional formatting to help improve readability by alternating between white and light grey across rows.
- Use gridlines sparingly – Gridlines act as a guide for the readers eyes, so too many can make data look cluttered.
- Sprinkle in some conditional formatting – If you’ve got loads of data to style, be lazy and get the spreadsheet to do it for you.
- Break the rules – Rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes you need to not follow any of the above and just do what you think looks cool 💯
Google sheets formatting tips
Let’s start with a simple table, with ZERO formatting:
So here we have a table showing some made up data.
Looks boring right?
Let’s spruce it up:
Let’s give them some colour to make them stand out. And obviously in this imaginary scenario, the brand colours are purple. So let’s highlight our header rows and colour them:
Now lets, bold and change the text colour so it’s easier to read:
Remember how I said about left aligning text data and right aligning numerical data?
Well ignore that and focus on the rule breaking tip.
Let’s align centre align our data!
But before we do that, you may have noticed that cell B11 is cutting off the end of the URL slightly. An easy fix is to double click the cell header:
Now we can highlight and centre align:
If we want, we can make out headers stand out even more by increasing their size like so:
Formatting your data
So far, a lot of formatting has been superficial. This is still important IMHO as if something is easier on the eye, people are more likely to read it.
No one wants to be lost staring at and overwhelmed by data.
Taking the example table, we’ll strip out all the data formatting. Now look at it:
We need to add in some number formatting.
Because the numbers in the Click & Impression columns are quite large, let’s break them up with a comma. We can do this changing the number format to #,###:
And don’t forget we need to make the CTR an actual percentage:
For big data sets (or custom seo reports) adding in alternating colours for rows is handy.
With conditional formatting it’s pretty easy too. Let’s go back to our styled table.
Just highlight the whole table and then open up the Alternating Colors option sidebar (in the Format dropdown).
Select a color scheme, whether you want a header or footer row and hey presto:
There you have it, a real quick introduction to formatting in Google sheets.
Like all things in the wonderful world of sheets: have a play around and see what you make.