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I have a desktop application which has many editable fields, about 50 fields grouped into about 6 sections.

When editing, the field's text box will show, then once the user clicks save, the data will be displayed as just text in a read only display. The plan is to do this in the same window (or give the illusion it's in the same window).

The question I ask myself is "does the user need to see the fields that aren't filled in?" The answer is "probably not", but if I don't show them then the fields would would need to be dynamically reorganized so that only the fields that are filled in are displayed in the minimum amount of space. That gets tricky.

I worry that switching between read-only and edit modes could be jarring if the fields are jumping around. In that case, I could use another window for the data entry/editing form.

There are some fields that it might be good to know are empty, and other fields that are less commonly used, so I could try and structure the fields in a way that less commonly used fields are hidden but the empty important fields still show. This might allow me to keep the fields from having to reorganize as much.

My questions to you are:

  • Would it be best to only show fields which are filled in when in read only mode, or is it better to show all fields, even the empty ones? Or is a combination of the two acceptable?
  • Or, only show populated fields when in read only mode and use a different data entry/edit window rather than trying to use the same window/layout structure.
    • If using a new window, is it acceptable to move labels to above the fields in the Edit/Enter window and then use labels to the left of the field for the read only screen?

A mockup of the edit mode: enter image description here

And a mockup of the save mode: enter image description here

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It depends on the visual awareness of 'profile completeness' to be useful to the users needs.

I don't know the exact business domain you're dealing with, but there are some cases where there are useful attributes that aren't required, but are helpful to know (or at least understand what's not complete).

  • Things like 'mobile phone' might be good to see blank, so a service rep might be prompted to ask for it.

You have several options, which are testable.

A: you can keep all fields (empty and completed), and do direct edit on hover for a specific field (like a little hover pencil). This is simple modeless editing, and is good for filling in quickly.

B: you can view only the completed fields, and reveal all in an edit mode. You don't have to match the exact visual placement or layout, but try to retain the same logical groupings.

C: you can also view only completed fields, and have a little 'view all fields' (you need better language than that), where it will reveal the empty fields for quick editing.

Bottom line, it's really about what's in service of your users: dig a little deeper on their needs, and test these approaches.

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  • Thank you Mike! I'll do some tests/mockups and run it by some users, but option C may provide the best approach. Thanks again!
    – Brad B
    Jun 22, 2021 at 13:49

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