The application I'm creating deals with maintenance issues allowing a user to report a defect and notify the people responsible for looking at the problem. Think of the application as performing maintenance on 'parts' of a car, but those parts requiring different 'trades' to fix or manufacture them. ie. The auto electrician for the electrics of the car, but also the manufacturer of the electric components.

I'm trying to find an intuitive way of letting the user know that once they have selected the 'part' they then also need to select the 'trade or trades' associated with that part also.

Here is the mockup for reference

enter image description here

The 'parts' list is huge, comparitive to all the parts contained within all cars (so hundreds of thousands potentially). So I have used a miller column style (not tree view)to allow for the size - this is not the issue (unless you have a better suggestion feel free!) then I have used an add button that adds the selection to a collection box, that you can then again select the item and add a trade. The trades list is small, only about 15 maximum, depending on the part selected.

I'm having trouble displaying to the user that they have to perform this 2 step process in order to make the selection complete as a part with trades. At the moment in my mock up it is too arbitrary and I'd like it to be more obvious.

Also a trade can be assigned at any level, meaning it can be assigned to the whole engine (Parent), or just the spark plug within the engine(3rd child down).

Any suggestions, mock ups or useful information would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

  • 1
    As a new user you've not been allowed to insert the image. Can you upload it to imgur and provide a link to it so we can embed it into your post? – JonW Feb 6 '13 at 8:52
  • 1
    Sorry new user mistake! i.imgur.com/C4kJXGG.jpg – Redhaus4 Feb 7 '13 at 0:32
  • Can you walk through the work flow a little more explicitly? The purpose is to id a problem area and dispatch to a trade, correct? So, is it safe to assume that once a user has selected a part and a trade, he or she is done? – Benjamin Malley Mar 9 '13 at 4:01
  • Benjamin, your right, id the problem, id how many parts involved, id all trades involved for those parts, then alert all trades involved in order for them to asses and or make a decision as to how to fix the problem... – Redhaus4 Mar 15 '13 at 3:56

The only thing I can think of would be for each level you click if the item in that level had options for trade the item would expand to show the trade options which they could check to assign that trade to that item.

So for example:

Parent1...........|........Child1…….....|.…..2nd Child1


...._Trade1.......|........Child3............|.......2nd Child2

...._Trade2.......|..........._Trade1.......|......2nd Child3

Parent3............|............_Trade2.......|..... 2nd Child4

Parent4...........|.........Child4.............|..... 2nd Child5

  • Jason, this is the most logical solution so far, especially considering there are few trades, I wonder if this would be too much cognitive load for the user? – Redhaus4 Feb 7 '13 at 5:51

Add one more column at the bottom level which contains trades for selected item.


This allows making all selections in one step.

  • 3
    You might want to expand this answer a bit more. What is your reasoning to led you to this and how would it work? – kontur Feb 6 '13 at 7:20
  • 1
    Serg, that makes sense to me, but the problem being that trades can be assigned at any level. The user might want to only go as far down as the engine, and then choose to assign many trades, or they might know the exact part they are after within (like a spark plug) and then only assign the one trade... – Redhaus4 Feb 7 '13 at 0:38

If you're confident there won't be too many trades per part, perhaps you could replace the "add part" button with dynamically changing buttons that say something to the effect of "Add Part and Notify name". Then, in the list of what's already been added, have a small button for each item that says "Also notify..." and allows additional trades to be notified as needed.


Make the first element of each column Add part and when you hover it you'll get a column with checkboxes for the 15 trades and a confirm & add at the end.

Another option for the Add Part hover would be to have the 15 trades come out of it and then when you hover a trade another 15 come ot of it, and the part is added after you've selected its trades.

I created a short example, part 1 shows the first method and the second method is in part 2. You can check it out here: http://jsfiddle.net/GGSUs/

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.