I have a table that can be filled with pre-configured items. I also have a combobox that user can select an item from it - either by scrolling it or by starting to type and using auto-complete (the same as Google search). If I put this combo on top of the table, it's very intuitive to use, but when it's opened it hides the table, making the user's decision harder. Another possiblity is to put the Add combo below the table - but then it will have low discoverability and may will be less intuitive. What do you suggest?

Edit: Adding screenshots:

On top of table (current UI): The Add combo on TOP

When combo opens, it hides the table: Opened combo

Below the table (the new suggestion) The Add combo BELLOW table

  • Why does your combobox hide the table? Don't hide the table. – paparazzo Dec 2 '14 at 15:24
  • Added screenshots after @Andrew 's suggestion. – Yoav Moran Dec 3 '14 at 8:33
  • @Blam I've added a screenshot to explain that. – Yoav Moran Dec 3 '14 at 8:35
  • It shouldn't matter if it covers over your combobox as that is where the users focus is currently and they are using that box to search for a new place and when they finish or delete what they are doing the fields that it covered will be visible again – Andrew Dec 3 '14 at 10:50

There are a few things to consider. But first off, just as a hint, having a screen shot of the situation would very helpful.

To consider:
- What is the user going to be putting in the combo box?
- Is what the user typing in the combo box dependent on what's in the table?
- Is there a way that you can place the combo box in such a location such that when the options show, you are not hiding any needed content in the table?

There are times and places where sacrifices need to be made, and you need to hide content (but those situations are far and few in-between, and should be avoided as much as possible). But let's look at what other sites are doing. Take Google for example:
If we are typing something into the search box, we are given a drop down of some autocompleted search queries. This drop down does in fact hide content, but the hidden content is navigation, and not pertinent to the activity taking place (the act of searching content). Search not hiding navigation Search hiding navigation

Now, when it comes to your table, we need to discover if the combo box is going to overlay information pertinent to the action taking place. That is to say, if you are searching a table of products, and you start typing in Cheese, you could get an autocomplete of Cheesey Squeezy, Cheese Puffs, and Kraft Cheese, that would overlay the table. If we have an autocomplete overlaying information we are looking for, then we must find a new place or new way of displaying the autocomplete.
However, if your autocomplete is something more across the lines of an "Filter By" option, then you might actually be able to get away with it. Again, see a Google example. Overlaying select When filtering our results by time, we are not actively looking at the content, so it is acceptable to cover up the search results.

Now, getting into possible solutions if your autocomplete does in fact cover important content. There are a few options:
- One of the more popular options I've seen is having the autocomplete input on the right side above the table.
Generally, important information in a table is on the left (in the English speaking world, where we most commonly look left to right). So it would be less of a UI hit if we hid less important content on the right side of the table.
The first place that I see this kind of setup is with the Safari web browser: Right side drop down
When the user clicks the magnifying glass, you get two options for searching the page. In this case, the search is on the right, because that is where it is most generally out of the way, allowing a drop down to cover up (hopefully) less important content.

- You might also consider putting the drop down inside the list.
This is a less used approach, but I've seen it around. Depending on the size of the list (how large it will become), it might be acceptable to have the Plus button inside the list at the bottom. From the screen shots you added, you essentially have a list (not a table, but that's semantics), so you could make the Plus simply the last entry in the list, and as the list grows, the Plus would always be at the bottom. This gives a Todo List type feel to the table, and that may or may not be appropriate. A benefit from this is that the dropdown will never cover up content inside the list, because it is always at the bottom. And since the Plus is still inside the table, the control isn't as disjointed as it would be if it were outside and below the list.

- Another option would be to make the drop down for autocomplete actually "drop up."
This is a less used approach, and depending on location of your table and autocomplete, may not be a viable option.

It is typically not a good approach to put an input box below the area it will be used. You are right that it will have lower discoverability by placing it below the table. In web world, users generally read (I say generally because the web is filled with strangeness) top to bottom. Having an input below the table would cause a disjoint, and most likely, users will think that the input goes to some element farther down.

Edit: Added screen shot of Safari Web Browser for use case with drop down on the right side of content. Also added an additional (possible) solution where you can have the plus button inside the list.

  • thanks for the info! The table holds locations, and the combo adds new location to the table, User may not remember while typing if a location appears or not in the table, so he may want to have the table visible all time. It seems there's no "magic solution". Do you have an example of a site where the combo is put on the right side? – Yoav Moran Dec 3 '14 at 8:41
  • Edited the answer to help with what you asked. The first example that came to mind isn't a site, but an application (Safari), but the same design principal is in play here. Sometimes, there is no "magic solution" yet, but at some point someone might come along and have the perfect solution no-one thought of that then becomes the new standard. – Andrew Dec 3 '14 at 13:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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