I have a tree of items in a left nav and a main content pane to the right. Users should be able to select an item from the tree and populate fields on the right with complicated info (long paths, cryptic ids, etc..) from that item. Info that isn't often remembered.

A simplified example:

Select a contact and somehow populate fields

I've considered just automatically populating the fields immediately when the user clicks the contact, but that would overwrite anything currently in the fields. A warning seems annoying.

I also considered adding buttons to all fields that are "populatable" from the data (not all are). These buttons would show up when a contact is selected. The user would then click that button to populate the field explicitly.

Click a button to explicitly populate a field

Customer is asking for "double click" of a contact or just immediate populate on each selection. I think magic things happening on clicks can confuse the user so an explicit population is best. Thoughts? How can I do this in a natural way with out needing a bunch of verbose help text? Should I use click and drag and change the cursor when hovering over a contact? Both? Are buttons on each field confusing?

  • What do about other fields in a pane which are not populated?
    – Chetan
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:37
  • Are these fields editable? If yes, are you worried about losing user entered data in these fields when a contact is selected? What do about other fields in a pane which are not populated? what Info they show to the user? are the editable or a labels ? Providing 'populate' buttons for fields is not a good idea, it clutters UI and what about triggers like combo which already have trigger buttons? It is good to highlight modified fields with some background color change when user selects contact from left side tree.
    – Chetan
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:44
  • Fields are editable. I'm not worried about user losing data in most cases. Other fields in the pane which aren't populate-able would have no blue button and remain empty. Should there be one main button in the pane to populate all able fields? Is implicit (auto populate upon selecting a contact) better than explicit (trigger the population by selecting a contact and clicking some sort of populate button)? Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


It is better if user is in control of whether fields auto-updates on contat selection or not, hence provide a top 'Auto sync' checkbox in the fields panel.

  • If auto sync is set, fields automatically update on contact selection,
  • If auto sync is turned off user needs to explicitly update the fields by either double click or right-click menu button on the contact.

Please refer to below Mockup with red arrow indicating the auto-sync checkbox.

This auto-sync check box can be made to remember previous selection(as per session and user).

enter image description here

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