I have a data structure that is network-like or graph-like.

Most of the time a tree is sufficient, because it can fit into a tree model, but sometimes the branches can fuse together. If you want to represent this in a typical tree I can see no other way than to duplicate these nodes.

For example in the bottom diagram :

'Outlet Group 1' appears twice even though it is just one instance (Two branches are meeting up). There is a similar situation with the node called '30201-1'.

Tree Demo

Is there anything else that could be used to convey to the user that we are not dealing with a typical tree?

  • I was thinking of highlighting all the duplicate nodes. When a user clicks on one of the nodes all instances highlight up :

enter image description here

  • Alternatively I could list that the node has multiple parents in the right panel.

Any thoughts?

  • 3
    Why do you need to explain the relationship? What fails in the UX if just implement a continuously expanding tree.
    – Jason A.
    Nov 26, 2014 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


You may use a symbol for every subsequent instance (see image below). You may use the windows shortcut symbol or any other symbol that is meaningful to users.

enter image description here

  • so the first instance looks normal. All other instances look visually different with a shortcut link? Dec 3, 2014 at 8:19
  • Yes. You may also add functionality on the shortcut icons, when clicked navigate to the first instance. Dec 3, 2014 at 16:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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