I am looking for existing solutions to a user interface problem. My users have the ability to search in a list of items. The items can be either single or composite items. In the search result the users can edit the composite items in place. When they edit the composite items they may need to search again, this produces a problem since they are already in the searchresult.

My current thought is to pin the currently edited composite item on top of the search result.

Are there any existing solutions to this problem?

Illustration of the problem: Small illustration

The users needs to change amount Amount1, Amount2 and so on. When the users change AmountS1 they will need to do another search. The problem is how to retain the Composite Item and still allow the search.

  • 2
    not quite sure I understand... what does a "composite item" look like? could you post a screenshot or wireframe to clarify the existing UI for us? – Sam Pierce Lolla Feb 5 '13 at 14:51
  • I don't quite get it either (you mean something like Google Instant? Not understanding "composite items" or editing in place), a screenshot or mockup would be helpful – Ben Brocka Feb 5 '13 at 15:09
  • I have tried to clarify with an image. – Jonas Widroth Feb 11 '13 at 7:59

If I understand you right, the problem is:

  1. User is editing a composite item inplace in the search results
  2. She want to clarify something and need to start another search

How he or she could achieve this without loosing her current context (i.e. currently edited composite item)?

First option is to use tabs for search results.

I.e. let your users do several searches simultaneously.

It could be done differently (always open search result in the new tab or let your users pin a tab to force search results to be opened in the new one, or ask user whatever she want to open search result in a new tab if she have unsaved edits in the current results, etc).

Second option is to use a dedicated area for the edited items so they will always be "out of search" and will remain on screen even if new search will be started. But I think it's not so obvious as plain tabs and will require more explanation and clarification (where this area should be, how items will get there, how and when they should be removed, etc).

  • I think that the use tabs variant is good but my users often adds items to the composite item using drag and drop. And even if checking something it will be on different tabs generating some confusion. Have you seen any example of the use a dedicated area? – Jonas Widroth Feb 12 '13 at 9:08
  • @JonasAndersson you may look at Structure Plugin for Jira (they have a live demo so you can play with it). It's not quite the same, but I think you may adopt the behaviour: they have an ability to copy rows to a clipboard and then browse the clipboard (it's opened as a sidebar) and drag and drop rows from it to the structure itself. So you may think about splitting your view and perform an another search there or move items into a sidebar and perform another search in the main area. – alexeypegov Feb 12 '13 at 19:09

Have you considered a fixed-position search box/input? so that no matter how far down the results they get, after editing a composite the search box is always at the top of the screen (not the page).

  • I have added an image to clarify. In my image you can see a search box on top of the result. The problem is keeping part of the searchresult and allow another search. – Jonas Widroth Feb 11 '13 at 8:00

The problem seems to be that there are two conflicting user behaviors. Search is very fluid, and the user is actively editing the search parameters. The search form should stay fixed, and the results should change. When editing the objects, the objects should stay in place and the search parameters no longer apply.

I would try a modal approach. In search mode the user is focused on editing the search parameters. Once she clicks on the edit link next to a result, the mode changes to editing and the search form becomes frozen and grayed out. To shift back to the search mode, she need to actively click "search again" to repeat the current search (which may no longer contain the results she has edited).

All the basic principles of modal interfaces apply: clearly distinguish between the modes visually (by graying out the search form), don't have the same operation/command sequence mean something in both modes and make the shift between modes explicit.

  • The problem is that when the users to "search again" they need the edited result to remain so I have to put it somewhere. I think that having the user explicitly change state between editing and searching is unnecessary, in my context it can be automatically detected (Writing a new search text, entering new values). – Jonas Widroth Feb 25 '13 at 7:42
  • Most of the time, yes. The sticky part is when they've entered new values and submitted them. They should still be in edit mode until a new search is performed, or their work may suddenly disappear. In this case you should make sure to communicate clearly that the current search parameters no longer apply to the results shown, and should be re-submitted to update the results screen. – Peter Feb 25 '13 at 7:49

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