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(Couldn't find a better title for this question)

The problem is as follows: I have to design a UI for a site presenting statistical data (census). One use-case is to browse predefined tables. To get a table the user must do two choices:

  • choose an administrative unit (organized as tree (obviously), whole country is default)
  • choose a table (organized in topics and attributes e.g.: demography->age->list of table with age)

Designing a UI for this alone is not the problem (we already tried different stuff: trees, breadcrumbs, menus)

The main problem to solve is a relationship between administrative unit and available topics/tables. I want to make this relation visible: the choice of administrative unit influences the available topics, but I don't want to prohibit the choice of a topic before the user chose an administrative unit. I want say (but without text): you could freely choose any table (because the default admin. unit is the country all tables are available) but if you change the administrative unit afterwards it could be that the table disappears (if available it will be updated for admin. unit) I want to suggest but not force the order and give a visual hint about the relation.

thx in advance

share|improve this question

I'm not sure I understand your situation clearly enough, but let me take a shot...

Is it possible to use some kind of a view/ filter switch like pills, so the user can toggle between admin. units to see other topics that can be filtered?

Or, explicitly encourage exploration by some kind of instructional or hint text. Since it sounds like admin units are essentially the 'parents' (or filters) of available topics, you could suggest that selecting other units will expand the list of topics.

If done in the right tone, and with brevity, it doesn't feel forced. In fact, it may be rewarding to users that the UI is forthright about what they can view.

Hope that helps in some way.

share|improve this answer
choosing an administrative unit is not a real filter but there are two groups of administrative units one group has all topics the second group not all. So in many cases a changing the administrative unit will not influence the topics but only display the topic/ table for the new chosen admin. unit. I want that both dimensions are simultaneously browsable with a little hint that chossing admin. unit first is better. – dermoritz Oct 8 '12 at 11:00

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