I have received a few emails from QlikView developers asking what the best practice is for placing list boxes. There are two arguments that you may think of right away.
In information design, left-side, top-left to be precise, is always used for the most important information. It is because as a human-nature that’s the space people pay attention to first. So why should I waste the space for placing the navigation pane there? I should place it on the right.
Another argument is that people are used to use left navigation because most of the web sites have menus on the left. Think about a shopping web site. All departments, categories, genders, sizes… whatever you think of usually on the left hand side. So why should I go against human’s habit and place it on the right-side? People will get confused.
I can buy both arguments. But then how about placing it at the top? I have seen QlikView applications that have navigation pane at the top. Is this the best of all? Let’s think about this in QlikView usability, with an elimination method.
Right-pane We create a demo application for 1024px width so that it will fit nicely with any devices you may have including a projector. But some users may have a wider screen or higher resolution screen. If for some reason if I want to expand the line chart at the bottom to see more in detail or utilizing the space of my screen, I will need to overlap the navigation section with my chart by extending the width. Then, when I want to make a selection in Expense Category, I need to either move the chart or resize it to do so. If the navigation pane was on the left hand side, you could resize the width with no problem, and you still could make selections in Expense Category list box. So the right-pane is out.
Top-pane I have seen applications with list boxes at the top. This may be a good idea because then the ‘body’ part can be used only for information display. Is this the best of the all world? Let’s think about it for a second. We all know that you will get a request of adding more list boxes on the screen. Eventually you will run out of the room towards the right, and you will consider adding a second row of list boxes. Then will you shift everything down? You are losing the important real-estate to display information by the navigation pane. So that doesn’t work well.
That being said, I personally think that having the left-side pane works the best in QlikView applications, and here are the benefits.
People are already used to look at the left side to navigate a web site. So why not also for QlikView? Also remember that QlikView is also a web page.
QlikView tabs as well as clear button navigation bar are at the top starting from the left. So it is the best to keep the navigation elements on the left hand side so that when a user looks at the top left corner, all navigation related items can be seen easily. It’s all about where your eyes start on the screen.
If a user wants to expand the width of an object on a wide screen, there is no disturbance with other objects.
The area to display the information is consistent. Even if I add more list boxes, I do so within the left pane. So there is no need to shift the information display area.
Lastly, you may wonder why I have the timeline list box at the top. This is my 11-year QlikView habit. I believe it is the best to keep the timeline list boxes separated from other selection categories.
If you cannot give up the top-pane option or wish to have many list boxes on user’s figure tip, then you can use a trick. Here is an example. When you click on the ‘filter’ button, then there is a drop panel with list boxes. I recommend you using this in dashboard where you need lots of real-estate for important information. Or also you can use this together with the left-pane navigation. In this case, create list boxes for the most frequently used fields on the left for easy navigation (accessibility), and you can create the hidden panel for additional list boxes.
Now it is up to you what method you will use in your QlikView application. Will you go with a top, left, right or hidden pane? You can also download the technical paper on this topic here.