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We're making a monitoring application and in it we have a pattern where, in a single screen, we have search, select and view functions. The basic principle of the pattern is we filter on something, list results, then on clicking a specific result, show a detailed panel with information on the result all in the same page and all at once.

The problem we have is that at the moment a user clicks on a result item to view its detail, the data behind the detail could have been updated behind the scenes. At this point, we have a number of options and have difficulty judging which one is superior from a user experience perspective:

  1. We show the detail that was relevant at the time of search, ie, it matches the result list detail but might be deprecated when compared to the true state of the data

  2. We show updated detail but do not change the list, possibly showing in the detail information that is different than in the list

  3. We update the list entry but leave it in place, possibly making the result list incoherent with the filters selected or the ordering options chosen on the result.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would recommend that you go with option 1, but timestamp the results, and offer the user the option to update. A more elegant solution would be to indicate to the user when the results have changed, but get the user to refresh themselves. That way the user retains control.

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How often is your data likely to change?

How important is it for your users to see the up to date info?

How much data will you be showing to the user (how many results, how much info for each result)?

Depending on the above the answer may change but in general I would:

  • Always show the details that is relevant at the time of search otherwise you may have users thinking "Did I just select the wrong item?"
  • Do not update without user interaction unless it is critical that they know the most recent info.

I would suggest using a button saying something like "Some of this data has changed, click to show.".

Depending on how important it is for the user to know the most recent info you could combine this with a visual indicator that an items data has changed (either a colour change or a small icon).

You could also give the choice to the user with something like "Don't ask me again, just give me realtime updates!"

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