We have a hierarchical selections that currently is represented as a wizard to the user. There is tree which can have many branches and each branch can have many leaves. For now I'm using table rowspan attribute and allow user to select branch associated with tree or leaf associated with branch.

Another alternative is to use master-detail dropdowns so that by picking the branch the leaf dropdown is updated with available choices.

Both of these seem unintuitive and frankly ugly. I was wondering if there is better way of doing this?

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  • I find questions like this really hard to understand without knowing the concrete task the user is working on.
    – user31143
    Jun 16, 2016 at 13:14
  • @dan1111, it's very specific to the user domain. I simplified it to tree/branch/leaf because if I used the actual terminology nobody would understand the context.
    – Sam R.
    Jun 16, 2016 at 14:13
  • How are the hierarchies defined? is it possible to just use something like a folder tree view?
    – Devin
    Jun 16, 2016 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


As far as what you have depicted, I would suggest collapsing the final node options, the same way it seems you have collapsed the options for the Tree and the Branch. Once a user makes a selection, there is no need to show the other options. This would clean things up a bit with your current design. (Assuming they do not need to rapidly switch back and forth at the leaf level).

Also, if there are multiple rows of Tree->Branch->Leaf selections, you could possibly keep the rows below the first (or current) one collapsed until the that row is completely selected. This would reduce the information noise on the page and help walk the user through each T->B->L selection set.

You may consider breaking apart each row into separate screens, almost like a wizard. Having too many selections on a single screen can potentially get overwhelming. Assuming of course you have the freedom to split them up in this way. Careful though, as this could slow down expert users if they prefer the shotgun approach. (Maybe have an "Expert Mode"?)

If you have active or potential users, you can always ask them for feedback. Sometimes they can provide key points of insight that will help you better understand their needs and their perceptions of how the tool should work. Always understand who your users are.

Hope this helps some.

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