How can I improve the User Interface (UI), Usability, Ease-of-Use for my Bases & Views?

Hello,

I’m looking for help on designing my Bases and Tables for ease of use, even when they contain a lot of data. I currently have 4 bases my organization uses, and I am glad to have all the information in one place. However, having so many types of information per record requires many columns per record, which becomes cumbersome for users to navigate for daily use. I have to track so many columns that the usability of my base has diminished. What AirTable has solved by synchronizing data into a single location has resulted in a new problem: a cumbersome user experience through an overly complex base or table. Does anybody have ideas, solutions, or workarounds they’ve used to make their Bases & Tables user friendly, while also preserving the more complex functionality?

Sometimes this kind of “simplification” makes my base more difficult to navigate and edit, so a related follow up question to that is: What are some best practices for making bases and tables that are both 1) simple to navigate with a good UI and 2) easy to edit or add new records to?

I have tried the following:

  • Making columns as “skinny” as possible by abbreviating field names. This way they don’t take up as much horizontal real estate on the screen, and I don’t have to scroll-left or scroll-right to view or edit the information I need to. But this only goes so far in helping.
  • Using Page Designer to create a side-frame view of certain information in a more readable format. This is helpful, but I don’t think I can edit the record through Page Designer, so in that sense it’s not a solution, but is unnecessary added complexity that makes other tasks more difficult.
  • Using Linked Records to have certain information (like a person’s contact information) stored in another location, but accessible by double-clicking the linked record. This is helpful in theory, but the AirTable “pop-up” that displays when I double click a Linked Record I find overly complex, counter-intuitive, and difficult to customize the format/layout.

For reference, here is a list of the columns from one table that I’m trying to manage:

Traveling Engagements Table:

  • Trip Name
  • Request Form Date
  • Request Form Name
  • Request Form Email
  • Request Form Phone
  • Request Form Host Org
  • Request Form Event Name
  • Request Form Begin Date
  • Request Form End Date
  • Request Form Location
  • Request Form Website
  • Request Form Event Description
  • Request Form # of Attendees
  • Request Form # of Engagements
  • Request form COVID Protocol
  • Host Name
  • Team Lead
  • Team List (Synced, Multi-Select)
  • Trip Report (Linked Field to records with ~10 other fields)
  • Payment Amount
  • Organizational Expense
  • Team Expense
  • Invoice Total
  • Payment Status
  • Reimbursement Status
  • Notes
  • Trip Processing Status
  • Point of Contact

Any insight you’re able to provide of how to make a user-friendly user interface when managing complex sets of data would be appreciated, thanks!

-ML

[Views] come to the rescue!

I hope you are aware of the ability to hide fields on a view.
Use multiple views of each main table, one view per each functional group of users.
Let each view have visible only the subset of fields its user(s) are interested in. That way they will see a reduced set of fields.

Let’s start with something super simple: are you are aware that you can easily turn formula fields into customizable aggregators on par with lookups and rollups?

E.g.:

{Request Form Date}
 & '\n' & {Request Form Name}
 & '\n' & {Request Form Email}
 & '\n' & {Request Form Phone}

Concatenates what I’m assuming are four fairly short cell values into one that’s four lines long. Given your description of the situation, it sounds like you’re already used to looking at max cell height hah, so that example would fit right in while leaving you with 5% fewer things to look at.

On that note and just to be clear: you should still keep the original fields, just keep them hidden. So, I guess this a fight-fire-with-fire sort of suggestion: more fields!

As for trying to keep things neat and as non-claustrophobic as possible, maybe consider shortening some field names while dropping their original names into their descriptions (which I assume are empty, based on those names you’ve shared)?

Because if you’re feeling things are getting out of control while having so much as a single “ghastly” field on screen; one whose contents mostly say something like ‘/’, ‘n/a’, or may even be empty, but is still a finger thick because it’s called Reimbursement Status, then maybe try dealing with those edge cases first.

And a silly question to round this out: how many monitors are you using? Fingers crossed the answer is plural. but you literally cannot have too many when it comes to stuff like this. And before going “where would I even put another one” - air space is all you need. :sweat_smile:

P.S. Oh, and strongly agree with the above suggestion to try using views, sections, filters, and conditional record colorings more liberally. I don’t believe there’s a practical limit on those, and with the sections now being collapsible, splitting your tables into sections dealing with concerns (e.g. finance, logistics, paperwork, host info, finance stuff, emergencies), then segmenting those into views, as needed, would probably be the safest long-term play.

Thanks for the response, Grunty. I am aware of these and have tried utilizing them, just looking for ways to take the User Experience to the next level beyond these.

Thanks for the response, Dominik. I have used “concatenate” but I did not know about the formula that made multiple-line cells and condenses the horizontal expanse of columns. I haven’t used field descriptions outside of forms, I will explore using both of these to simplify the presentation of more complex data.

Also, I do have only one monitor, but if possible I’d like to avoid needing two or three. I get the need for granular data, but I hope I can make meaningful views that are simplified dashboards or workflows as well. I know I may be trying to do two things that in reality I need to choose between, but surely there’s a way?!

Thanks for your help.

Another (paid) option for making viewing and edit data easier is the On2Air Amplify app.

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