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We're designing a search feature which returns results from many different tables.

The user searches for something and the application returns all the tables answering the search query. The user should be able to navigate through the different tables in the results and review their content.

We are currently using tabs for displaying the tables, but since a typical result can contain as many as 20 tables (20 tabs), it makes it hard to navigate.
Also, the tables usually have many columns so we keep them at 100% width of the screen.

Any suggestions on improving this solution would be appreciated.

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how much does user interact with tables (tabs)?, does he know what table contains which result? so that he can navigate directly to result table? –  sree May 31 '12 at 8:29
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A mock-up or screenshot can help us to visualise the problem and to give you better answers. –  Daniel May 31 '12 at 9:59
    
The user usually scans most tabs, he usually doesn't know where his result is. –  KellyG Jun 3 '12 at 7:02
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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can collect the top search results from each table. Display each one result of them ina row with a little "more like it" button. if the user is interested in seeing more results from the table of a particular result, he/she can tap on the "more like it" button to be taken to another screen with all the results from that table.

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A couple of options:

  1. Use a list view instead of a grid view and display the results from all the tables in one list in which the row design depends on the source table of that row. You can add info on the source table to the row or group by source table (with or without expanders).

  2. Display a diagram of the tables and highlight the relevant ones (master view), clicking on one or clicking on page buttons below the diagram (prev, 1, 2, 3, ..., n, next) changes the grid view (detail view) below.

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yes! list based on most important attribute. But this project smacks of out there business requirements and a sketchy IA if you ask me... –  colmcq May 31 '12 at 13:37
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You can stack the tables in collapsible sections and provide informative names/descriptions to each table and let the user open and view them on demand.

A useful addition could be providing the number of results.

This also fits in well with the "first result" idea suggested by @kdehairy.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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