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(Just a heads up, I wrote this on an iPhone so it might not look great, sorry about that)

I'm building an online database creator (think Dabbledb, Zoho creator, etc)

When you create a database like these tools let you do, if you have a lot of columns then the table won't be able to fit on the screen. What most of these services do is show a horizontal scrollbar.

I thought of an alternative idea for my new service. Instead of showing all the columns on one page with a horizontal scrollbar, I would show only say 5 columns on the listing page. Then when you clicked the row it would show all of the columns on a new page.

On the Create Database page, I would lets users sort their columns, and the 5 columns that were sorted the highest would be the 5 that were shown on the listing page.

Some benefits of this approach:

  1. No horizontal scrollbars (I honestly think they're ugly and a bad solution)

  2. It seems simple (at least to me. That's why I wanted other peoples opinions) I'm trying to market it as a simpler database so lower information density is key!

But is this a good approach from a UX standpoint? I'd love to hear others opinions on this.

Or is there a better solution?

Thanks for all input!

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2 Answers

Fitting data to screen size is a bad idea:

  1. One user could work on a different devices, so your view will range from one column on a mobile to many columns on a desktop. It will confuse a user.
  2. User could easilly forget the data is cut. So it's bad UX which relies on human memory.
  3. Shortened data could break the data integrity.
  4. Switching between full view and cut view is additional operation, which takes time and efforts.
  5. Full view will still have scrollbar, so the issue remains.
  6. Sorting columns to hide some of them lead to data disjoining. Say, there are fields First_name, Middle_name, Last_name. To hide Middle_name, user disjoints it from related fields. For database it is okay, for user is not.

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Possible solution

I think you could use Fields Configurator action to manage all the necessary fields. This is a user friendly tool for creating sub-sets of attributes (projections) for current task. Still, the primary goal of this tool isn't scrollbar removal, but helping a user to manage complex data. Scrollbar removal is rather a possible side effect.

Option 1
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Option 2
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Thanks for the answer. Is there a solution that wouldn't involve horizontal scrollbars? –  Muhambi Dec 28 '13 at 20:28
    
@Muhambi, please see the possible solution. –  Alexey Kolchenko Dec 29 '13 at 8:47
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I'd suggest a left-side slide-in navigation where the columns are listed as rows. Choosing a column jumps to that column, and horizontal scrolling would still be enabled.

The trade-off in this solution is intuitiveness (left side navigation, columns-to-rows confusion) for ease-of-use (20-30 columns wouldn't be a huge issue, you don't "get lost" while horizontal scrolling).

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