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My client's site is essentially a collection of forms. When fully expanded, it is very dense. They have broken the info into categories (for simplicity's sake, let's say there's a "personal info" section and a "contact info" section, for example. There are tons of sections, I just want to give you some idea of what I mean since I cannot share screens or details).

Many of the fields within these sections are not required, but they are ordered logically to make input faster. (Keeping with my example, let's use personal info .... first name, middle name, last name, salutation .... Of these, only first and last name are required.) They want to show several sections on a web page. FYI, this is not a mobile site and will not be used by mobile devices as access is tightly controlled.

In the collapsed view of a section ("overview"), they'd prefer to show only a few items, and not necessarily in the same order as they'd appear in the "edit" or "detail" view. (Keeping with my example, first and last name, but not middle or salutation). Then, when the user would click "expand" or "edit," or maybe even "details," the user would see all the fields, in the original order.

Is this bad UX? To view limited content organized one way, then full content organized another? Make sense when you think of the goal of an overview - just the essential or required info, vs all the extra data.

2 Answers 2

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Since the form page looks complex as you described it, I would say that the idea to have a simplified overview of the key data is good ux.

If the overview data needs a different approach from the form, such as a different order of the fields as you mentioned, the more it will make sense to separate and differentiate the overview info and the form. Make sure that navigating from one to the other is easy enough and relatable to each other. For example you can add an icon or text link to some of the displayed data that will automatically address them to the form field or form category that they where looking for without the need for them to go through very long form searching for that:

Phone: 123-456-789 (edit)

Also, if you have users with view only permissions, this will unify the experience with those who have also edit capabilities.

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To begin with, I would only think about the fields that are really important and get rid of all the extra ones. If that's not possible, then I would appeal to the basic user experience principle of "don't make me think".

Imagine if you order some product in an online store. You already have an account there and some information. But suddenly you wanted to add some information about the delivery, you click the "change" button, and all the fields changed chaotically (at least for me as a user). I need to read each field in order to understand where to enter the information I need. Not very convenient, right?

Now let's talk about your example. To answer your question, I need to know how often I will need to change the data:

  • If the data is going to change infrequently and in most cases only a quick overview is needed, then really I don't need to look at all the possible empty fields every time I open the page. It is enough to have a summary of the filled fields and be able to add new ones.
  • If the data changes frequently, then it will obviously be inconvenient to look for the necessary fields in a chaotic list every time. You will need to make quick access to each field, which will speed up work and increase productivity.

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