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For instance I have some data like this: I have multiple users, every users has tasks which could be:

  1. not started
  2. completed
  3. in progress
  4. done

When I want to achieve clear separation of users, highlight the tasks in progress, and also make clear at first sight how many incomplete tasks a user has, which design pattern should I use?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

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You could design a table like this with effective use of rowspans. It makes good use of horizontal space as 3 tasks can be displayed in the same row (in the best case). Conversely, our vertical space is saved in a big way, very useful if u have a lot of users.

Additionally, the task count of each category of a user is represented using colour codes to reduce text, in a content heavy page I guess it makes a difference. The summary count of all tasks can ofcourse be displayed at the end of the table.

and most importantly, the admin can view all the tasks that are 'Pending' or 'In Progress' or 'Done' across all the users at a glance, .

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I would swap the Not Started and the Done columns in this design ... that way there's a natural reading progression across the chart. – Erics Nov 3 '11 at 23:29

If you know for a fact that you will only want to count one type of tasks (in your example - Not Started) and that you want to highlight the tasks in progress, then you could go for a nested/grouped table. You basically have a list of tasks, grouped by user, and in the grouping row you display the important meta-data (number of unstarted tasks). And you can have any kind of visual emphasis to highlight the tasks in progress - a bold font, a different font color, an icon, whatever. Like this:

User 1                                        Not Started: 2
        Task 1.1                                Not Started
        Task 1.2                                Completed
        **TASK 1.3                              In Progress
        Task 1.4                                Not Started
User 2                                        Not Started: 0
        Task 2.1                                Completed
        Task 2.2                                Completed
        **TASK 2.3                              In Progress

If you want your app to be more generic, and to provide the user with a possibility to display more counts (e.g. number of tasks completed), then you'll want a column for each status, displaying all four totals in the grouping row (or display a separate summary row if you have more data to show on the user level).

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