We've just started thinking about a new product (to be used internally at a company) that:

  • Takes in multiple inputs (hundreds)
  • Has a large set of templates (thousands)
  • Has a large set of previously generated output (tens of thousands)

Generates new stuff.

For example:

  • Location: Los Angeles. Band: Green Day. Nearest Venue: Staples Center. When: tomorrow Lowest Price: $49
  • Template: "Hi there - we've got [Green Day] tickets available for [tomorrow] at [Staples Center] for [$49]!"
  • Previous output 1: "Get tickets for [John Mayer]! [Saturday] at [Hollywood Bowl]. Only [$95]."
  • Previous output 2: "Want to see the [John Mayer Show] at [Hollywood Bowl]. Buy now for [$95]!"

What we'd like the system to generate sensible output that can be used.

What we're focused on here is the UX challenge (not the technology or architecture or semantic language processing stuff).

We were thinking, for example, of some really visual ways of doing this, where you have a big set of targets on the screen, a big set of templates, and a big set of historical output. Some way of creating associations between them (pointing and clicking, dragging, etc.).

Then, some kind of simulation or preview, showing what the combination of things results in.

We also wondered about various visualization techniques, for instance, rending a set (inputs, templates, outputs) as some kind of physical object (like a cube or something) to maintain the relationship / binding of the items, if that makes sense.

Anyhow - we're not quite sure what direction to go. Any screenshots / examples of ways that similar problems have been solved would be appreciated.

  • 3
    This seems a bit open-ended. Template examples: Microsoft Word document templates, Campaign Monitor email templates, ASP.NET .aspx files (esp. using Visual Studio's "Design" view). – Brian Oct 17 '12 at 21:36
  • I'm looking for something more complicated, taking in hundreds of inputs, thousands of templates, and generating output (hundreds of thousands of rows). – yarone Oct 18 '12 at 22:14
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    It would be helpful if you provided a wireframe of the best solution you can come up with, and an explanation of why that solution is not ideal. – Brian Oct 18 '12 at 23:24

It seems to me that you want a variation of a left-to-right flow chart. Something like the Smart Draw - Example Flowchart.

Users would "wire-up" the following nodes, possibly broken up into three columns given the number of possibilities you are presenting:

  • historical output
  • input (data)
  • template

and see the ouput(s) on another pane, say along the right hand side if you are looking at it as the result of the flow, or possibly along the left hand side if you think of it as a navigation or selection list.

Though I think that the workflow/flowchart model would best match the visual aspect of your question, given the size of your selection lists, you may want to instead consider a simple spreadsheet style layout where the user simply highlights their selection(s) in each of the columns with the final output(s) appearing in the last column. This would provide for a larger set of options to be displayed at one time, as well as intuitive sorting, filtering and scrolling to display new options.

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