I'm working on part of a redesign for a big, enterprise web application. This part has the user managing a bunch of settings that govern how the rest of the application is used.
These screens follow a similar pattern - They start with a table with anywhere from 1 to 30 rows, each row containing a name and description. Clicking the row takes the user to another page that contains actual editable fields. Depending on the screen, sometimes these are extremely simple, maybe just two or three fields on it. Other screens are more complex, with tabs and fields and controls all over the place.
It's difficult to come up with a good example, but here's a shot: imagine if you had a system that catalogued car parts. You've got a table for each type - so a table for tires, a table for spark plugs, a table for fenders, and so on. Each of these items has a variable level of complexity - maybe for spark plugs, all you need is the model number. But for engines, there are all kinds of fields, and lots of complex values to enter.
My problem: so the particular problem that I'm trying to solve here, is that there are a lot of pages with very little information on it. In total, there are probably about 40 different tables (each on different pages). Probably 30 of those are "simple" - so for each row in the table, there are less than 5 associated editable fields. For those, it would be much easier to edit the fields in a lightbox/dialog rather than going to a whole different page.
For the other 10 tables, those have "complex" editable fields. Of course, they vary, but the point is it doesn't make sense to put them in a dialog. They really need their own page.
(finally!) My question: So I've got 40 pages, each with a table on it that looks basically the same. Currently, when you click on a row, it always goes to another page. If I change it such that sometimes it opens in a dialog, and sometimes it opens a new page, how confusing is that going to be?
Would it be advantageous to have some kind of indicator, or slightly different set of controls for pages that open a lightbox vs another page? Suggestions/examples of what that might be?