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I have a similar problem to what is mentioned in Best way to display more table columns than I have room for?. But to make things a little more difficult, the table has approximately 1000 rows and 64 columns. I thought of splitting up the table but the users insist on viewing all the columns at once. Hence I have come up with one option where the first two to three columns with name, ID are set to a freeze state (like in excel) and rest of the columns scroll under these columns; i.e. the table gets a horizontal scroll and to solve the row issue i have given a pagination. I have recommended that the table will be displayed only if there are 100 rows, if there are more than 100 rows the user will get an export to excel/import from excel option.

Is there a better way to handle this?

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"but the users insist on viewing all the columns at once". Your solution does not make all columns visible at once either. so I think you need to investigate further what users really mean with this and why they want this. –  Bart Gijssens Jun 14 '12 at 6:20
    
I guess even introducing a column collapse feature would be too tedious with that many columns... –  AndroidHustle Jun 14 '12 at 8:38
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2 Answers 2

If you must display 64 fields to all users in a table, then your design for the columns is the standard solution (or, at least, it should be). Observations of Excel use indeed shows that such large tables are workable. I don’t understand the row “problem” –1000 rows is not too many for a single window for modern large displays, especially if you fit those rows In a vertically scrolling pane that keep column headers in view (again, like Excel). 64x1000 fields is only about a meg of data to load –not too much even for a web app by today’s standards. So don’t use paging in this case.

However, whenever you get a questionable demand from users, that’s a sign to research why. Once you understand why, often you, with the imagination and experience of a designer, can think of a better way to meet the user’s needs. “Research” doesn’t stop with asking users why, although that’s good start. You should also find out what the users actually do with these 64 fields by such means as direct observation or log analysis.

Is it really true that you must display all 64 fields to all users in a table?

  • First of all, could it be that some users need some fields and others need others, and you can adapt the table to different user roles (e.g., employee positions). Don’t trust users saying they “don’t mind” if there’re extra fields, or “it would be nice” to have extra fields because “some day they might need them.” Instead, look at your task analyses and determine what fields each user group truly needs. Users are not good at anticipating the effects of information overload, especially for hypothetical designs.

  • Second of all, could it be that only some of those fields need to be in a table? Only fields used to identify, select, and compare rows need to be in a table. Other fields can go in a “overflow” detail pane below the table in the window, where they can have a form-like layout (e.g., the bottom third of the screen has four columns of 14 fields each, leaving 30 rows of only 8 fields in the table). And/or low priority fields can be placed in a separate window accessed by clicking a link in the table or selecting a menu item. For more details, see Taking Panes.

  • Third of all, could it be that they are using these 64 fields to mentally (or with paper!) derive some aggregate value for each row? If so, is there some way you can do that aggregation for them, replacing many fields with a single field?

Chances are once you find out why users are insisting on viewing all columns at once, another alternative I haven’t imagined will become obvious.

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So +1 – you totally nailed the why aspect. –  vzwick Jun 14 '12 at 15:47
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There are two types of people:

  1. People who appreciate a simple and clear layout.
  2. People who want to see all 64 columns at once (accountants).

Generally, when people want to keep "too much" things at their screens at once, this is a sign of that they find it hard adding or removing it from there. You keep a webpage tab open because you know that if you close it, it would be too much trouble to find it again if you happen too need it again soon.

I realize this is a big challenge (that I have failed myself many times); but if you can make it dead easy to add and remove the things they want to keep on screen (here: columns), then they will keep it nice and tidy themselves.

In Windows Explorer, viewing the contents of a folder in "Details" mode, right click the column header for an example.

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'dead easy' should also mean 'not time consuming' - it's about a cost of re-creating the "customized" view. I recall searching in the image database being on mobile internet connection - it was easy to set up a filter, but re-creating the whole view was costly because of load time of the contents –  Bartosz Rakowski Jun 14 '12 at 9:15
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