At this point, you've created your Main List layout, but it doesn’t have anything on it. How do you decide what to do with your blank canvas?
Generally, you want to follow common patterns that you see in popular applications. You might think of this as plagiarism or lack of creativity. However, when people regard a solution as “intuitive”, they often mean that they know what to expect from it — and they know what to expect from it because it’s set up like other applications they already understand.
Sometimes the specific problem you are trying to solve requires a unique solution, or you have a brilliant insight about how a specific process can be made more efficient. These creative ideas make development exciting and rewarding. But as you make innovations, keep the user's experience in mind. What seems obvious to you may turn out to be confusing to your users.
Let's take a common approach to designing your list layout, dividing it into columns to help the user scan the data more easily. Within each column, you'll create a group of fields. You'll use formatting to make some fields stand out visually, helping the user to understand which are the most important.
Prioritizing Your Data Points
Your list layout should present only the most important information about the people in your system. You want to make it informative but easy to scan. We recommend working with three columns of data:
- Column 1: Identity (main and supplementary)
- Column 2: Key information
- Column 3: Working data
When you sketched your list layout, you learned that the most important position on the screen is the top left. The same is true within any subdivision of the screen, such as the body part.
What data should occupy this position in the body part of your list? Generally it’s data that helps your users identify each record quickly. We'll call this the “main identity”, which for a people-based solution is usually the person’s name.
In case the name isn’t enough, it’s helpful to add more data below it to help confirm the person’s identity. We'll call this the “supplementary identity”. Here are some possibilities:
- Sales contacts: job title and company
- Students: student ID and graduation year
- Patients: medical record number and primary facility
In the middle column, we recommend placing “key information” fields, displaying the data that the users need most often and which is directly associated with the person in question. Typically this is contact information. Here are some options:
- Sales contacts: contact information (work phone and work email)
- Students: contact information or the student’s major
- Patients: contact information, age, allergies, or primary complaint
Finally, we recommend placing “working data” on the right of your body part. Like the “key information” fields, this should be data your users need most often. But it has a different role, helping your users to make decisions or inferences about the records. For example, you might display the owner of the record, a status, or a due date. Here are some possibilities:
- Sales contacts: the salesperson who owns the contact and/or the status of the most recent sales activity
- Students: the student’s advisor and/or a field indicating the next action associated with the student’s enrollment process
- Patients: the primary physician and the date of the next medical appointment
Using Merge Fields
We recommend that you use merge fields rather than regular fields on this layout. Merge fields can only be used for display purposes, so if a field will be used for display only, a merge field makes sense because it helps you see this restriction immediately when you view the field in Layout mode. If the user needs to interact with the field (entering data in Browse mode or find criteria in Find mode), then a regular field must be used.
Choose the fields to include on your body part and add them in three easy-to-scan columns.
Adding Your Main Identity Field
- Choose the Insert menu > Merge Field ⌥⌘M or Alt-Ctrl-M
A Specify Field dialog window appears.
- Choose your main identity field.
The example solution uses “Full Name”.
- Click the OK button to dismiss the dialog window.
A merge field is added to the layout.
- Position the merge field in the upper left of the body part, leaving an appropriate margin above and to the left of it.
Next, use formatting to emphasize the field, communicating that it is the most important.
In the Inspector’s Appearance tab and Text area:
- Make the font size larger.
The example solution uses 18 points.
- Click on the square of color next to the font size to change the text color to full black.
- Apply bold formatting to the text.
Adding Your Supplementary Identity Fields
- Use the Insert menu > Merge Field command to add your supplementary identity fields.
- Increase the height of the body part if necessary to arrange the fields in a way that looks good to you.
The example solution sets the height to .875 inches.
The supplementary fields are not as important as the main field, so they should be smaller and lighter in color.
- Change the font size to be a little smaller than the main identity field.
The example solution uses 16 points.
- Don’t change the color — keep the one assigned by the theme (which is a shade of gray).
Adding your Key Information Fields
- Use the Insert menu > Merge Field command to add your key information fields.
- Change the font size to be a little smaller than your supplementary identity fields.
The example solution uses 14 points.
- Change the text color to match your main identity field.
Adding your Working Data Fields
- Repeat steps 11 to 13 for the working data fields.
Formatting the fields as italic will help to distinguish them from the key information fields, so:
- Change the font style to italic.