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Im developing the ui that uses a table based layout for listing items, it needs quite a detailed notes section, the obvious thing would be just to have an input in a similar way to a cell in a spreadsheet, but that would have to be either huge (and would stretch off the screen) or tiny (but clip the notes text)

The idea i came up with was a toggle that would reaveal a hidden notes section relating to each row of the table - as per the wireframe below - this was the best approach i could think of, but im not sure if its the most logical, any ideas on other approaches i could use to tackle this problem ?

slide out notes

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Are notes additional information which come with item and doesn't display initially? Also doesn't the table allow any user actions and decisions besides displaying and editing notes? –  Alexey Kolchenko Aug 6 '13 at 11:43
    
@AlexeyKolchenko - good points, notes would be displayed initally, the other info in the table would be a mixture of user inputted data and calculated data displayed back to the user. –  sam Aug 6 '13 at 12:08
    
Is it likely for a user to add more than one note to the line item? This then raises the question of whether it is important for them to see that there are multiple notes, and to be able to access the one that they want to edit in one click. –  Michael Lai Aug 12 '13 at 23:14
    
Yes they would be adding more than one note, infact multiple users would be adding notes on the shared file –  sam Aug 12 '13 at 23:16
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2 Answers 2

There can be a multitude of issues with your suggestion:

  • I have to start with the idea that you may have a scroll area (notes) within a scroll area (records). This is a functionality dead-end, and there's no (intuitive) way to support this on touch devices.
  • You are putting space constraints on your notes area (both the amount of notes seen and the text input area). Where, it is likely users would like to see all notes and to have a large input area (in a system I'm working on there's a field for admins to say why someone's ban has been lifted - you'll be amazed how expressive people can become and how long these notes can be; expect the same if the notes are to be relevant to more than one user).
  • A key concept to tabular data is that all the data is of the same type (ie, all records have the same fields). While there are exceptions to this (grouping and summaries), you are really mixing apples with bananas - the grid headings will be meaningless for the notes. Another way of looking at it is as a violation of the law of proximity.
  • The solution is not extendible. What if you need to add features like remove note, change note status, edit note, priorities?
  • If there're many records and many notes, you'll be promoting cognitive overload - say there are 7 records each has 4 notes, displaying 35 items on screen is hardly easy on anyones brain.
  • Although the least of your concerns, programatically this is extremely challenging to code.

For me it is a classic case of one-to-many relationship, the solution for which is often having two grids. When the user selects a record, the notes grid displays the related notes. Is there an issue with this concept?

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Just a note on the last comment about being challenging to code - jquery data tables has an off the shelf example which emulates this - datatables.net/release-datatables/examples/api/row_details.html –  sam Dec 1 '13 at 14:00
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How about show it in the new view? It should be better for viewing and scrolling, especially for more notes. People hate scrolling in general.

Second approach should be overlapping of table by kind of a "bubble" under the field.

Both are better for me, because they do not affect original table (no moving or stretching of fields).

But obviously the best way to find out which is really better is only a lot of testing with people.

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Thanks, when you say 'new view' which part are you referring to ? –  sam Aug 6 '13 at 15:54
    
It depends on platform which you use. It shold be new page, window or new tab, screen or new view in the mobile app. –  Pavol Donko Aug 7 '13 at 7:44
    
@sam, was it helpful, or you want something else as answer? –  Pavol Donko Aug 9 '13 at 8:27
    
Kind of, the approach i decided to use was to open a modal popup on clicking of the notes toggle –  sam Aug 9 '13 at 14:19
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