The other day a friend asked me what to do with a design I had done two years ago for Digital Catalog. He told me that a user uses the comments section for relevant information about the discs, including condition and specs and the user complained about the fact that the comments are somewhat hidden.
As you can see the comments are on the bottom-right corner of the application. This is also the same approach Microsoft used for Windows Vista, you have the list of files as the center point of the Explorer Window and the Details Pane on the bottom presenting the most relevant information about the selected file. The question is, where should this information be? There are at least 2 approaches to this problem, the current approach used in Digital Catalog and Windows Vista and another one similar but with the information on the top of the window. Microsoft had done this in the alpha stages of Windows vista. This method gives you all the information you might want right in your face but the problem with this approach is that the window is too heavy! Everytime I look at this window it feels like it is going to fall in my face at any second. It a lot of information, menus, tools and related tasks but the fact is that this is a very plausible solution to solve the information problem. If we only had this two choices the best option would be to make it configurable at the user level, if the user doesn’t have much use for that information hide the details pane or show it on the bottom and if he really feels that the information is very relevant he could show the pane on top. It is mandatory that the design of the pane on the top is somewhat similar to the bottom pane and the top pane in particular has to pay a lot of attention to the “heavyness” of the design. A good way to handle this is using colors similar to the main body of the application but a bit darker or lighter to differentiate the parts.
In the particular case of Digital Catalog we have some other pretty solutions. In this concept you would have the items on the center and on the right the detailed information about the item. this raises only two problems in my opinion. First you might have a very high resolution or very few information to show and that would result in an enormous white bar right there for no good reason. The other solution would be to have the item information on the item itself, this would take some real estate to show all that information, but that could be done by expanding only the selected item.. This solution limits the possible item visualizations (lists, tiles, details, etc) but would definitely solve the information problem, the question here is to opt between information vs visual diversity.
Please share your thoughts and opinions, and post some images if you can too.