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I need to display large amount of data per each record, and perhaps edit it. I thought maybe displaying data that is most stable in table rows with an additional side panel for additional data, like in this sketch:

Complex data UI

Here is how an inline adding of a row might look like:

Inline editing

Another idea is not to display additional data at once, but to leave it for viewing/editing in a modal window like this:

Modal viewing and editing

What is the proper balance for reducing the number of clicks the user has to make and not overcrowding the UI, and how to accomplish that for complex data records?

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The inline approach looks slick and not overcrowded at all IMHO. Would need to use it a bit to get a feel for nuances that aren't directly conveyed via the screenshot but overall that looks to be the best choice of the three you mention. –  Aaron McIver Dec 9 '11 at 14:17
    
@Aaron The inline approach looks slick because there are only 4 columns in the example picture. I will have to use up to 20 columns for complex records. I am worried that it might not be as comfortable then. –  ipavlic Dec 9 '11 at 14:20
    
@ipvalic You have to process the data in some form (as a user) unless you are providing the option to hide columns. If not, a nice horizontal line of data can be very manageable. Inline requires no learning of flow as well and generally feels very intuitive. One component that may hinder the fluid feel is the need to explicitly Update/Cancel. Perhaps this should exist at a higher level? –  Aaron McIver Dec 9 '11 at 14:25

2 Answers 2

I've always liked the way MS Money offers to edit the records:

enter image description here

Using an inline form, and expanding the row for making more room to easy edit.
BUT the implementation in key. They have put ton of details to make it work perfectly with several hotkey, common key (like Enter), clicks combinations, etc.

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If most of the rows need to be updated/filled most of the time, you would better go with the in-line design. However, if only a certain row is to be chosen for edit, then you could present a modal dialog.

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