Hierarchies Pattern Set Version 2.0.0.0Print this Page
 
 
Description
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The Hierarchies pattern set enables users to extract meaning by comparing objects within a hierarchy to other objects. By understanding the location and quantity of parent/child and sibling relationships, users can understand the organization and distribution of objects. In addition, big picture overviews of hierarchical data can help users identify trends and see correlations across data dimensions.
 
Is This Pattern Appropriate?
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Levels
One
Two
Three
Solution See Tree Table pattern. See Master Detail pattern. See Hierarchies pattern set (this document, excluding Tree Table).
Details A data set or list of objects that are all at the same level is best shown by a table. All objects are siblings. When the hierarchical data set is two levels, each parent has only one child and vice versa. Read on.
 
Patterns Contained in This Set
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Categorized Content Groups information into recognizable categories and limits each view to two levels of hierarchy. This is the most familiar hierarchical display for novice users.
Tree Table The row-based hierarchy is expressed by an indented outline structure. Works well with data sets and objects that are homogeneous.
Tree/Detail Organizes large, deep, and heterogeneous data sets while providing an understanding of the type, relationship, and distribution of objects. Capable of presenting large amounts of data about each object.
Overview/Tree/Detail Pane Places a supporting hierarchical display (tree and detail) below a defined object. The defined object presents overview details in a one-, two-, or three-column layout. 
Pivot Table Can show two separate hierarchies in one view: by column, by row, or both.
 
Pattern Set Decision Table
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Categorized Content
Tree Table
Tree/Detail
Overview/Tree/
Detail
Pivot Table

How many levels of hierarchy within a data set do you require?

4+

3 – 7

4+

3+

3 – 7

What is the maximum number of levels that you need to display?

2

3 – 7

4+

3+

3 – 7

How many data dimensions (columns) do you require?

1

2+

2+

3+

2+

What is the user type?

Casual

Trained/Power

Trained/Power

Experienced

Power

Is analysis of trends a primary user task?

No

No

No

No

Yes

Do you want to enable users to open or close branches?

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Are objects sortable within groups?

No

Yes
(sort retains hierarchy)

No

No

Yes
(sort retains hierarchy)

 
Related Patterns
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Browse This pattern provides a method for navigating (drilling) by means of the data into subcategories. Ties in with navigation, but usually for larger sets of objects.
Master Detail This pattern provides a method of navigating through records using a master object and corresponding details refreshed in the area below.
 
Related Guidelines
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Table A tables is used to display broad data sets. Tables flatten all relationships between objects and reduce all data to the same level.
Tree Navigation is a series of investigative digging using expandable nodes at different hierarchical levels.
Panel Splitter Splits the window into panes. Selecting information in one pane displays read-only content in the adjacent pane.
 
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