I'm working on a feature for a b2b application with a the following requirements:

  • A given hierarchy of 3 levels.
  • Each level has the same properties.
  • Each child level inherits from the parent, unless changed.

I need to provide the user with quick and easy edit access for the properties in each level.

Let's say for example that the hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Country
    1. State
      1. City

The properties might be:

  • Min. drinking age
  • Min. driving age
  • Max. driving age
  • ... and so on ...

There are 7 to 10 properties. I'm not sure how easy it will be to see it all in 1 data grid.


  1. The user sets all properties on Country X.
  2. The same properties automatically populate to child states and cities.
  3. A state is changed, which populates to all child cities of that state (unless that city already has overrides?).

The user can also change the values of any individual point in the hierarchy.


How can I provide users the functionality they require without sacrificing speed and simplicity of management across all levels of data?

  • What happens if a user makes a change at a lower level and subsequently makes a change at a higher level? Would the original lower level setting be overwritten?
    – Matt Obee
    Sep 25, 2014 at 13:44
  • Actually I'm not sure yet. It will either override or keep original values. Don't think it should affect the general idea of the solution I'm looking for.
    – mecoshe
    Sep 26, 2014 at 19:52
  • Try to visualize your structure to get better/faster answers. Jun 3, 2015 at 17:58
  • Haven't had time to think about the solution here, but you might want to look over in-line controls for minor data, like the ones discussed in this question. Jun 3, 2015 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


The hardest part of this is not so much the physical process of entering & editing the data, but clearly explaining the "inheritance" relationships between properties of the various levels.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • You should clearly state and establish your inheritance rules.
  • Make it clear for the user the ramifications of their changes to values of child levels before saves.

Sample diagram below showing one way this can be handled.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups


So what you have is an input problem. You want to make the entry as quick and unrepetitive as possible. You have not said if its for mobile or desktop use but the solution applies to both. Have three sections either laid out horizontally for desktop or vertically for mobile. Have the user fill the first section fields with a option to dynamically autofill the next section's fields. On the second the user only has to edit the ones they need to. Once a row is complete, have an option below to add either more countries or states or cities. This is a rough starting point without getting the full context. From there test with real users maybe one or two and revise from there.

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