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What's the best way to work with user defined tables / fields. Form or Sheet?

User Experience Asked by Homam on January 6, 2022

I am developing an app builder and need a way to build custom tables (user can create tables and custom fields with relations)

There are two common approaches for the UX in designing the table and later working with data, but I am not sure which one has more UX advantages for modern SaaS services.

1. Forms

App designer will design the form using a Form and then the custom app user will enter data through the form as well. When data is saved it can be shown in a Grid.

Pros:

  1. More controllable (friendly validation especially required)
  2. Can add a lot of fields without worrying about the page size,
  3. More mobile friendly
  4. Better able to add business rules and complex validation.

Cons:

  1. Slower to design a new form
  2. Slower data entry. No bulk action

2. Sheets
Similar to Excel, app designer can add fields on the sheet directly and app user can enter, edit, delete data on inline cells.

Pros:

  1. User is already familiar with Excel
  2. Faster design and data entry

Cons:

  1. Horizontal scroll
  2. Not mobile friendly
  3. User can add rows and change cells by mistake

My question is how to make such a decision?

One Answer

Both ways have benefits and drawbacks, and I you've clearly already defined the pros and cons for each. At this point I think you can make the best decisions by answering questions about your users and use cases:

  • Will most users want to access this app on mobile or desktop?
  • Is it typical to add data a little at a time, or in bulk?
  • Will you often need complex validation and business rules, or only rarely?
  • Is editing data something that will likely happen very often/in bulk, or just occasional 'spot' edits?
  • Are my typical users already power users of excel, or are they likely to make mistakes in editing the wrong cell often?
  • Anything else you know about who your user is, and how they will 'usually' use the app?

You might not be able to answer all these questions easily, but as you think about which pros are really big wins and which cons are actually big problems based on your user stories or typical use of the system, an impression of which way is better for your specific situation should hopefully take shape.

Answered by Meg on January 6, 2022

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