I've got a database with persons and selecting a person will show the detail of that person in a screen on the right.

Person database example

The list can be filtered, but i'm not really sure how to handle if the selected person is no longer "present" in the list.

For example, we have the person "Jane Doe" selected, and then we filter the list on "John". The list shows all persons named "John", but the detail pane still shows "Jane Doe".

See example:

enter image description here

Now a sensable solution in my mind would be to automatically select the first person in the list of the filter. But that gives me the following problem.

If we filter on "Jane", and then change her name to "Michelle" it would mean that she no longer applies to the filter, and thus will be deselected.

enter image description here

I'm wondering if that's a correct way of handling things or will cause a confussion with the end user.

  • Are changes performed immediately? Or is there a "Save" button. If you have a Save button then I think you could make the change in the search pane easier e.g. by showing "Michelle Doe *" . Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 11:06
  • Right, i forgot to mention that. There's indeed a save button.
    – DennisW
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


When a user enters text to search, and sees a list on the left side, he hasn't finished the Search phase yet. If he receives a subset of names, it doesn't mean that he will want the first one, he should now go over the list and choose the one he looked for. This means that I don't see any use to select the first item (as you suggested), except for solving your problem - it just doesn't add any value. On the other hand it causes a change on the right side that attracts the user's attention and distracts him from the task that at hand - the Search.

What I suggest is that if the user seen on the right side doesn't appear on the left - leave his details, but remove all selections on the left. I know some products that chose such a solution (for example IntelliJ) and it's very convenient.

A second question you raised here is: what should happen if the person's name changes. Since you have a Save button, after clicking it the left side should be refreshed - meaning the name can possibly vanish from there, but still the right side should remain, in the spirit of what I discussed earlier.

That's what I suggest. Of course I may be wrong and this could me very confusing for the user - a user testing with a mock will be needed to find out if that is so. Create a mock (using Invision, for example) of your behavior and one with my behavior and test with different users. After that - you'll sleep well at nights knowing you've found the best solution possible in the world. :)

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