List Me Off: List vs Master Detail

When designing layouts for any application we create we consider what is the best method to show information for people viewing it. In a database system, we are dealing with tables that have many records in them. Some views that will be the detail of a record (and potentially related records), however, sometimes we need to view more than one record at the same time. This can be achieved when formatting the data as a list. But when is this necessary or can it be avoided? A potential method to get around this is to use a masterdetail layout. The masterdetail layout has a list of records on one side of the layout and the main details of one record taking over most of the layout. In the side list, one can be chosen for displaying more information and that is called the master”. 

Now there are lists in many places, but in applications that we are building, we first have to consider if that is needed. Sometimes a detail view is sufficient for showing data, and to find and navigate a different record there can be a window that pops-up for searching. This could be good for looking at proposals for different projects. Other times, for things like schedules and inventory, it would work best in a list and there would be a way in that list to look up details for a specific record. Then in an application that is for contacts, it may be good to just have a list of names at the side to be able to choose which one to view. 

We have to consider what is adding to the experience of viewing data in an application or what is being taken away, distracting from the important information. Too much information can be an overload, but not enough may not give the whole picture. List views can help replace main menus or dashboards, which can help direct users to information more quickly, but more often is just a direction to detail views. So, going back and forth from a detail view to a list can become tiresome. 

It can make a developer go back and forth on the best design, but consider what the application is being used for and what fields are the most important to a person. When having all these considerations in mind, then a path best can be chosen. For more hints of what to do, take a moment to look at all the applications that you use and how that could be relatable to what you build. Design is for people so keep them in mind, and the many options out there available for them.