I am building a widget to merge Records. Lets say, this table is information on Cars. There are variable/data points like VIN, Milage, etc..

Now, there may be more than one entry of the same car in the system and I want to allow users to be able to merge these. Currently we indicate the duplicate entries but we only allow them to merge 2 at a time.

enter image description here

My questions are -

1) How do I let users merge more than two records in this screen? 2) how do I implement "Select all from Record 2" kind of an approach. I was thinking of a radio button in the Column Header as well.

I am skeptic of using a horizontal scroll bar. Yes there may be a vertical scroll since there will be many rows. So I would make the first column sticky and then have both scroll bars. But I know there may be a better way of doing this.

I am also thinking of a 2 column approach like this:

enter image description here

Can there be possible usability issues with the dropdown approach?


For the selection of records to merge I recommend a simple click to select with javascript or the use of checkboxes and a button labeled "Merge Selected Records" at the top or bottom of the list.

Here's one idea of allowing a user to select values from different record.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Do I understand your situation correctly?

  • yes! @sirtimbly you understand the situation correctly. I like this approach a lot. do you think it will be a challenge to communicate to the user that the entire cell is 'click to select' ? – imbakaran May 7 '13 at 19:57
  • Not much of a challenge, use visual styling to create clickable depth on each cell. Adding mouseover effects should give the user enough visual cues also, but, as always TEST. – sirtimbly May 7 '13 at 20:08

If there are more than 2 records to be merged then perhaps you could, as a first step, offer a list to resolve of the records and their created dates (and expandable details) to let the user choose either one to prevail (and thereby bypass the merge table) or select which 2 to merge with your 2-record merge table and keep the table limited to 2 records, that way the user can ensure they are choosing the best 2 versions to merge (e.g. latest and earliest) and still have the option to repeat merging with a different record and the newly merged record. I say this rather than offer a solution to merging more than 2 at a time as I think you will get into a messy table with more than 2, it is often the case in these scenarios that a user already knows which record is best and offering a table of 5 records for example may be overkill.

The main problem I see with the select option is that a user cannot see the options before them and it seems a bit fiddly when it comes to the override text field... a user may not see what they have overridden after completing that without the columns. Hope that all makes sense!

  • Good suggestions. The thing is, I want the user to resolve duplicates. that means that if there are 5 records of the same car, there should ideally be only 1 record of that name. So you technically want to merge all. your suggestion gives me an idea to provide a 'DISCARD/KEEP' option on the page with the list of the duplicates. Then they can select the 2-3 best and then I want them to 'merge' these in the same screen. – imbakaran Apr 17 '13 at 17:16

One approach would be to mimic part of the Google Gmail Contacts UI that also offers a quick merge of multiple items. I'm going to use your cars example.

From the overview of cars, you need to offer a mode of selecting multiple cars. Easiest would be to incorporate checkboxes in the first column of the table. If the tables are large, it's probably a good idea to further support this by highlighting each selected row. It might make sense to offer a way to drill down the overview of cars.

Collect all selected cars in a "basket". Take a look at Google Hotel Finder for an example. The next step would be to merge everything in the basket. How you deal with this depends on the kind of data. You could for instance offer the option of merging by discarding all data but that of one car. Or you could walk your user through resolving each conflict (Is it an Audi or BMW? Is it blue or red?).


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups


Your design is not exactly user centered : you want them to do your job so a least be more gentle with them.

What is the information you want them to merge ? If it is a figure, then there is no point merging, they are already the same. If the information is something picked-up from a list then your application should do the merge by itslef.

There is really a need when the information is with a rich content only a human can create meaning out of. Now let say that is the type of information you are dealing with :

Can't the design be a little bit more contextual ? So the user can make a smart and educated choice and not something repetitive and dull. Tables are repetitive and dull. Stop using them. Only accountants like them. (edit : that is not true, not just accountants like them. I am just trying to make a point : tables can be very effective, but it should not be systematically used just because it echoes the data base)

So at the end, how is the "treated" information going to be displayed ? Stick with it and contextualize your merging. No widgets. No tables. Content and pleasant interaction.

Since I do not know how the information is going to be displayed this proposition might be completely inadequate :

Choose a random record and display it, add a link icon with the number of alternatives and when cliked on, show the alternatives and allow the user to pick one. No "merging".

I would really help if you showed how the final information is going to be displayed.

No merge, no tables, no widgets.

Can there be possible usability issues with the dropdown approach?

Yes if the text is too long, the number of possible entries is more than 10 and your user is not an accountant.

  • 1
    "Tables are repetitive and dull. Stop using them. Only accountants like them." - Telling someone that a Table is repetitive and dull doesn't sound like constructive user experience advice. It sounds like arrogant design opinion. – sirtimbly Apr 29 '13 at 22:28
  • 1
    You are right. I was trying to chock a little bit. In fact tables are really useful and are a way to condense and display information very effectively. I just fell that this mean is use too systematically. +1 to call me to order – Gildas Frémont Apr 30 '13 at 7:03
  • In fact I amended my answer. – Gildas Frémont Apr 30 '13 at 7:09

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