We've got a well established software base... thats getting on the dated side... and a lot of our UI relies on many datagrids on the same page/form etc. I've mentioned that I think this makes our application hugely non-intuitive. Rather than just complaining, I'm trying to solicit ideas about how to replace some of these customer facing forms with a more intuitive patterns.

My problems with this kind of model we've established so far are:

  1. The correlation between the grids themselves is not always (mostly never) intuitive.
  2. New records are created using "dbnavigators" which are the little left/right/firstrecord/lastrecord/post/cancel button bar, and rely on things being in place in one grid before the next grid can add an item etc.
  3. Inline editing in the datagrid seems to always add immense layers of complexity

An example UI

I've tossed around ideas for directed navigation (basic wizards) to much more contextual forms with tabs... eg, customer context form, and a tab for orders in which you can view. An add button to add an order etc.

Anything would be better though :(


2 Answers 2


Data grid makes sense when you are dealing with entry or edits of large number of items at a time.

One of the things why this layout looks complicated is because there are 4 modules grids on the page. Does the user need to deal with/reference information in the other grids when they are viewing or editing a single grid?

A way to make it feel easier to get started on might be to contextually show only the relevant information. In other words, hide what's not needed under a given context.

Let's say when a user is editing, they don't need to see information from the other grids. Then perhaps consider moving the editing to a separate page, or create an edit mode to decrease on screen clutter.

There's really no one-size fits all solution. So you'll need to look at what the user needs to do on a given screen to determine what you can do to make it better.


The "data grid" editing pattern is not in itself evil. Just replacing one pattern with another could

  • Severely disrupt users that have become efficient with current pattern
  • Introduce another set (or even the same set) of issues. There is no guarantee a new pattern has better UX

The issues you mention may be driven by visual or implementation issues - not the "data grid pattern" per-se. e.g. Here is potential solutions to issues while keeping

Issues 1 & 2 display richer data types with in-place editing to reduce disconnected grids. Better visuals.

Issue 3 - some well established UX patterns for this. Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions By Bill Scott, Theresa Neil is well regarded.

The key UX guidance is research the users issues, and address those. Working off even an expert critique of a UX pattern is know to not provide best outcomes. e.g. an unintuitive UI could need just a few visual tweaks, not complete re-development.

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