I have a 'primary table' of let's say, 'Suppliers'. Each supplier supplies certain parts which are displayed in a 'secondary table' called 'Parts'. When the users clicks on a row in the supplier table, the associated Parts table is refreshed accordingly (data fetched dynamically from server).

I want to place the Parts table in such a way as to clearly show it's subservient status to the Supplier table.

Both tables are Datatables , so the user has the ability to control the number of rows displayed at any given time.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • What information is displayed in the Suppliers table? How many parts do suppliers tend to have?
    – Matt Obee
    May 8, 2014 at 16:02
  • Also how many columns do/will you have in the supplier table and secondary table? May 8, 2014 at 16:05
  • 1
    @MattObee, I am thinking of displaying Name, Number and a brief description for each supplier, so three columns. For Parts table, five columns, name, number, brief description, price and in_stock (yes/no icon). There could be about 50 suppliers, parts could run into several hundreds. Please keep in mind I'm using datatables, so the user has the ability to display 'n' rows at a time.
    – kmansoor
    May 8, 2014 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


I have seen this type of thing done many times with the secondary table displayed inline below the selected row. The secondary grid isn't displayed on row selection though, instead every row has a little + sign on the far left as an affordance to indicate that there is a sub grid. You click the + to show the sub grid, and you can have more than one sub grid open at a time (very useful for comparisons).

Here is an idea of what I mean: enter image description here

  • I have a concern about this design. The audience is pretty old school. This is a factory setting. I wonder if this embedding of parts table would be easily noticed? I mean some users are not used to the visual cues and as such may miss the feature?
    – kmansoor
    May 8, 2014 at 16:18
  • @kmansoor If you are unsure how the target users will respond, then I would definitely recommend doing some usability testing with them. There are many third party tools providing data display controls, so you could get a trial version and quickly put together a mockup to see how they respond.
    – Franchesca
    May 8, 2014 at 20:04

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