Complex table filtering UI




This is a bit long-winded, so bear with me (sorry!).

I have been working on an application for a customer which creates support tickets from a web form. Due to the (legacy) backend system being used, most of the form data is compiled in the backend and compiled into a single “field” named “description”. All support tickets are displayed in a table from the database with various columns (as per this screenshot below) but the aforemenetioned “description” field is not displayed in the table summary as the content of this compiled field could be very lengthy and therefore, it was determined to exclude from the table (it is visible on each single ticket view (click-through from table)).

The requirements have just changed due to a customer requested feature, namely to be able to search/filter on the originally completed form and this hidden, compiled “description” field directly from the database view above.

Now, devs have informed me that it is totally possible to do this but my (UX/UI) challenge is how to display this in the current table in an elegant manner. My first thoughts are to change the “Subject” column, which already has a free-form search field, to “Subject/Description” (still not going to display this content in table though) and when users search/filter using this field, it will also return (filter) results from the description field but how can I possibly display this/articulate it to those using the form?

Any ideas much appreciated and if this makes no sense (likely), feel free to ask me to expand on this…


I think you may be approaching the limit of what you can do with search fields inside a table view.

Maybe consider lifting out the search function and displaying the results in a separate view? This would enable you to do something similar to Stack Overflow, where you show the text from the Description field with the search term highlighted:

Or create an advanced search tool, similar to Gmail’s, where users can choose which fields to search:

If you do need to stick with the current design, this article has lots of good ideas for complex data tables:

The ‘expandable row’ or ‘quick view’ concepts might be useful for the Description field.


Hi Michael_h,

Thanks for your reply. I’ve read the “Design better data tables” artcile before but I’ll give it another look, thanks.

Yes, I’m steering towards the Advanced search functionality, as there really is no elegant way to display search results from a hidden field and still maintain the integrity of the UI.

Thanks for taking the time to reply though, much appreciated and it’s reinforcing my own thinking :slight_smile: