Displaying different data types in a grid/ table.

24 Nov 2011 - 6:33am
2 years ago
4 replies
1137 reads
abhijith.rao@gm...
2008

Hi!

Has anyone successfully displayed or come across an example where different types of data are in a table on different rows?

To be clearer; data (results) does not share common column headers. Like Cars, Fruits and Computer components in a common search.

I can see that on a web application or a normal search these can be listed out like a page of results, but in my case I am constrained to showing them in a table of search results. I have tried a couple of options, but not completely convinced with it.

I have not come across an example like this, if you have please let me know. I am designing for Java/SWT and not a web application.

Thanks,
Abhi

Comments

24 Nov 2011 - 11:05am
DrWex
2006

Abhi

Our application does something similar. The fundamental unit of our display is a column and internally columns store information on their data sources, and appropriate display formats.

The second thing that occurs to me is that even though your data have disparate properties there is probably some overlap, if only in terms of things like "price". Common columns can be placed leftmost so that the data are denser on first display and then grow sparse as the user moves right.

Finally, there's a global question raised by your post, which is "what sort of search is returning this heterogeneous result?" My instinct is that if users do things that give large confusing result sets then it might be more productive to focus on things that will help users produce more coherent search results, rather than trying to dress up the results of incoherent searches.

On Thu, Nov 24, 2011 at 6:35 AM, abhijith.rao@gmail.com wrote: > Hi! > > Has anyone successfully displayed or come across an example where different > types of data are in a table on different rows? > > To be clearer; data (results) does not share common column headers. Like > Cars, Fruits and Computer components in a common search. > > I can see that on a web application or a normal search these can be listed > out like a page of results, but in my case I am constrained to showing them > in a table of search results. I have tried a couple of options, but not > completely convinced with it. > > I have not come across an example like this, if you have please let me know. > I am designing for Java/SWT and not a web application. > > Thanks, > Abhi > >

25 Nov 2011 - 1:57am
abhijith.rao@gm...
2008

DrWex,

Good to see that I am not the only one trying this out.

Overlap - Yes, I have accounted for overlaps (e.g. Status) and placed overlapping data to the left. It helps me make these columns sortable vs. columns with sparse data. So, looks like we are thinking alike. I agree with presenting users with dense common data before thinning out towards the end.

The heterogenous search result is because the data is interlinked though not similar. E.g. "Item 1" can be double clicked to open up "Item 1.1" which in some other scenario would be "Item 2".

Thank you for your reply

Abhi

 

25 Nov 2011 - 10:06am
DrWex
2006

Ah, I see now. Our application also does something similar in that the user can drill down from a given table row to see things that are conceptually related, though having different data structures.

Visually we do this by opening a sub-table for the drill-down data. The columns of the sub-table are those that are most relevant to the sub-rows' data types. There may be some overlap with the parent row, but the overlap was found to be <20% in a previous design so we decided that a sub-table with its own column structure was more appropriate and produced a more dense, easier-to-read result.

On Fri, Nov 25, 2011 at 2:03 AM, abhijith.rao@gmail.com wrote: > DrWex, > > Good to see that I am not the only one trying this out. > > Overlap - Yes, I have accounted for overlaps (e.g. Status) and placed > overlapping data to the left. It helps me make these columns sortable vs. > columns with sparse data. So, looks like we are thinking alike. I agree with > presenting users with dense common data before thinning out towards the end. > > The heterogenous search result is because the data is interlinked though not > similar. E.g. "Item 1" can be double clicked to open up "Item 1.1" which in > some other scenario would be "Item 2". > > Thank you for your reply > > Abhi > > > >

24 Nov 2011 - 5:16pm
jtauber
2010

Why use a data table?

You need to display search results, and provide additional attributes for each result, but since they don't share a common set of attributes, users can't sort by these attributes or compare adjacent results by attribute - in short, they can't do anything that data table columns facilitate.

As I see it, you have two options.

  1. Separate the results into their respective categories, which would make tabulated results possible/useful again. Two simple ways to do this are using category headings with separate tables under each heading, or tabs for each category. In either case, you need to ensure it's easy for users to scan the available categories (tabs work better than headings in this respect, because no scrolling is required), and to tell whether there are results for each category (displaying a number of results is useful here)
  2. Treat the attributes as qualifiers of each result, rather than a way to compare results to each other. This is appropriate if the user is likely to first compare the results for relevance based on a single attribute that all results share (like its title, url, or a relevance score), and only later want confirmation of a particular attribute before clicking the result. If that fits, then the other attributes can, e.g., be hidden to allow an unclutttered list of results, with the detail of each result revealed only on user interaction.


These ideas can potentially be combined, using an "All results" tab to display a list of all results, and the other tabs to allow users to sort, if necessary. However, in most cases, this is probably overkill.

- Justin

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