I'm currently working on a ASP.net application that has a variety of master, child relationships, portrayed on the page in a master gridview with tabs below. While this works for a somewhat small set of relationships, I was wondering if anyone could point me to some of the more innovative and creative ways to display this type of data.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Be creative, I'm open to anything.

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  • 6
    Seems like you forgot to upload the screenshot. – N30 Dec 10 '10 at 22:11
  • Can you, at least, explain what the "master gridview" is? – Bobby Jack Dec 13 '10 at 13:33
  • It's simply a table that displays data. A user can click on a table row and the div of that table is hidden while a new div is shown with a detail table showing data. – jlrolin Dec 13 '10 at 14:14
  • What is the goal/purpose of the application? What is the next step the user takes after reviewing the relationships? – Tucker Dec 16 '10 at 17:09
  • Simply to review data in a table format. Viewing and clicking on rows of data opens up detail tables of corresponding data. A nested tree of tables I suppose. – jlrolin Dec 16 '10 at 18:39

Tree view / thread view seem the most used and appropriate for relationships that are not going too deep (three or four levels) and are a strict hierarchy (no circular or cross references, every child has exactly one parent.)

The upper levels should have more visual importance (placed more to the left, using a larger / heavier font, having more space around it, etc.) Think for example of chapter indices.

In general, hierarchical relationships should have some sort of way to provide overview, and the ability to zoom in to lower leves / more detail. Think about which information is important at which level. For a more visual approach, the Google map approach is interesting in many ways, because you can get from incredible overview to incredible detail in very few steps. But also think of what google is displaying at every level: country names on the planet level, but streetnames won't be visible until you reach a certain zoomlevel. Kinda obvious if you don't think about it, but it is really important to display the right kind of detail to the user at every level: show them what they need, but allow detail to be easily ignored.

You also might get more inspirational ideas from http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/06/50-great-examples-of-data-visualization/


I will update this post with pictures and more approaches, but here is a list of several ways to display multiple levels of detail.

  • Kanban Board ** Several WIP=LeadTime*Throughput data visualizations naturally become available, too, assuming your data models accurately track cycle start and stop (most do not)
  • Jeff Patton's Agile User Story Maps
  • Details pane to the right
  • Sankey-Flow Diagram
  • Fisheye Lens (CiteSpace Time line view, eXplorer charts)
  • Table lens (foundation of Tableau)
  • Fat Scrollbars with color coding to show important details requiring user attention, plus, when searching, a way to visualize where search results are within the master-detail chain while not hiding surrounding context
  • Zoom able UI such as Silverlight PivotViewer

I don't know if this helps you, but - in cases where parents have not only children but also a lot of metadata, you can combine the nested grid with a details pane on the side. For example, in an organizational table, if you select the group "QA", then the list of QA people opens up under the selected row, but the details pane displays the team leader's name, the number of people in it, the group's location etc. This is also a good place to display data unique to that group, which don't fit in the main grid for various reasons.


Have you considered richer interfaces? Perhaps a mindmap/node infographic display. Multiple, nested child/parent relationships can often be better displayed with non-linear methods.

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