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Chapter 9. Complex Layouts > Complex Form Design

Complex Form Design

Essentially, when faced with a situation where simple forms won't work, you must find a technique for, first, grouping the attributes and, second, making all the groups equally accessible even though only a single group is visible at any given time. In addition, you'll need to maintain the users' context at all times, as well, and give them sufficient navigation tools that they won't get lost, so that they're never in doubt where they are in the system, or have a moment's doubt about precisely which set of attributes they're seeing. Sounds scary, doesn't it? In reality, the design of a complex layout is often straightforward. We're talking about well-understood (albeit not always well-implemented) mechanisms such as tab controls.

The tricky bit is grouping the attributes. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but I always seem to wind up with one or two attributes that just don't seem to belong with anything else. Somehow, the idea of an entire tab devoted to a single attribute offends my aesthetic sense. Worse, two otherwise unrelated attributes sharing a tab labeled “Miscellaneous” is the stuff of nightmares. I'm always convinced nobody will ever look at the contents of the tab, and the attributes will be effectively orphaned.


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