I’m reasonably sure we all have that love/hate relationships with grids or tables when it comes to nested data.

Over the years I have grown intolerant of anything below one level down, and work diligently to keep it simple. Early on I found going any deeper just made data hard to display, and often difficult for the user to understand. I work diligently to maintain my ‘rule of one level down’ by coming at the problem whatever way I can; changing navigation, breaking the data into smaller chunks, and sometimes even working to change expectations in the product owner.

  • How does everyone here feel about nested data in grids or tables?
  • Do you have a rule of thumb that keeps things manageable?

Any and all input would be great – I’m curious what you think.

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    Please illustrate what you mean by nested data inside tables, because this can happen in a variety of ways – tohster Feb 17 '15 at 21:28

I think the best answer will come from how the data structure changes when you increase the hierarchy/depth. There is a point a which is doesn't make sense to be able to drill down into multiple levels because in those contexts you are dealing with a different set of information or user action/behaviour. It is hard to say where you would draw the line without stepping back and looking at the overall picture.

One of the trends (and hence the popularity) in using cards or more complex UI designs to concatenate what would typically be broken up into a list or tabular structure. In one way it helps to remove the multiple or nested data, but in another way it makes organizing, displaying and manipulating the information more difficult.

Which all goes back to the point of the initial or original intent behind the design. When you continue to add content beyond what the original design caters for, it is a very good reason to consider a restructuring of the content to avoid having to come up with solutions like deeply nested tables that doesn't solve the underlying issue.