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I work on a control panel for a webhosting company and we recently implemented DNS. The resulting table with all records for a domain (or a template) looks a little something like this:

DNS records table

My question is as follows:

Given the fact that a hosts file or a bind server (a type of DNS server) always uses an order of name, type, content, ipv nu type, name, content and this is sort of an "industry standard", is there a reason to do otherwise in the interface?

I have a couple reasons for implementing it the way we did:

  • Not putting the type in front with the current layout makes it feel "off"
  • Having the type on the left allows you to see it from the corner of your eye and then "forget it" while you read the rest of the information in the table
  • I think, but I could be wrong, that you will either start scanning the table based off of the TYPE column, or the NAME column. If the latter is true you could order by that column easily.
  • While this is a "technical" piece of information, the idea behind the interface is to make this as easy as possible. There's no need to stick to old "industry standard" (counterargument: this might confuse technically experienced people)

Your thoughts on the problem would be much appreciated!

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  • just make sure your developers properly escape the DNS records before displaying them -- dnstools.fastnext.com/…
    – DaveAlger
    Feb 18, 2015 at 16:06
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    As a customer who isn't familiar w/DNS the color-coding helps, the rest of the info is gibberish, and the industry standard is meaningless - I only care that I'm editing the correct entry & not doing irreparable damage to my site. I can handle column reordering as long as the labels are the same. As an experienced technical user, I already understand what I'm looking at regardless of the order; I either ignore the color-coding or think it's helpful; I still just want to make sure I'm editing the correct entry.
    – mc01
    Feb 18, 2015 at 16:13

2 Answers 2

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It depends on whether industry standard is relevant to your users, which in turn depends on a clear understanding of what your users are likely to do with this table.

I use both DNS tables and LMHOSTS files in my work, and I use them in different ways. LMHOSTS is not something I change very often, because when new servers go up (if they need LMHOSTS entries at all) the entries are typically adjusted via script so I don't even see the format.

When I'm looking at a DNS table, I am not thinking about the LMHOSTS format. I am thinking about a name/type pair, then editing or adding entries. So for my use case, I think your layout is quite helpful. Also, it's a common mistake to screw up the DNS record type so highlighting in color is helpful to me.

I suspect that interviewing a few users on how they use DNS tables on your hosting site would reveal an answer very quickly. If you can't interview users, then I'd suggest checking godaddy.com, google domains, and/or AWS to see how they lay out DNS entries. From recollection, I don't think they follow LMHOSTS convention.

This is a long-winded way of saying: industry convention only matters when it's useful to users. If another layout allows folks to accomplish DNS management more effectively, then it's better.

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Industry standard fit to industry use and context. If it's not coherent for the use on web context, you have to change it. But keep it closest as possible to those industry standard to keep user habits.

And it also depend to the synergy of those two, if you switch one from the other very often, it can be frustrating to "compare" them all the time.

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