Excel spreadsheet colour coding/design/layout principles?



  • With programming you have "software design patterns", with websites you have design standardised (and then some templates, e.g. "bootstrap"), and people know where the input etc. is just because it was designed well, but are there any design patterns with Excel, so that input cell are of one colour, function cells are of "that colour", hyperlinks another, and then constant cells are of another colour? UK government standardised the look of its info pages, perhaps some government standardised the look of its excel sheets?

    I want it to be intuitive, not just for me (some people are colour blind (I'm not), so I guess it would be great if the design would account for them), but for users of my spreadsheets.

    Just as when for example a Finnish person (I don't speak Finnish) gives me their phone, I can set up their Wi-Fi, or search something on maps/internet, because the design/layout/colours/shading is so intuitive I can do it without even being literate in that language on an smartphone OS I barely ever used before.

    I'm an advanced Excel user (custom coded VBA code, form controls (e.g. buttons, sliders), dashboards). For VBA code I use coding patterns and comments just fine, so it's not about that.

    I'm aware of:

    • page layout view, which helps to see how it will look like after printing.
    • cell styles (I don't think the default ones in the newest Excel are intuitive enough, or if someone with UI background actually worked on it)
    • conditional formatting in excel
    • data validation and drop down lists
    • formatting stuff as a table for easier sorting, filtering etc.
    • "name manager" to rename cells and then using those intuitive cell names in references and formulas
    • how to "lock" cells, to prevent edits

    They did not teach us design principles at school/Uni, so I wouldn't mind at all if you answer with just a book link instead.



  • There is some sort of standardization suggested by Excel itself, which you can see when you open the Cell Styles menu from the Home ribbon (see the screenshot below, on macOS):

    enter image description here

    However, I don't think many people are using this.

    For things like hyperlinks, you can fall back on general Internet standards: blue and underlined.



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