Infosthetics points out another great UI demo. Moritz Stefaner, a User Interface Design researcher at the University of Potsdam has created what he calls an ‘Elastic List’, which is a way of browsing data that has multiple facets or parts to it. In this example, you can quickly located winners of any Nobel Prize by zeroing in on the Prize type, the gender of the winner, their country, the decade they won the award, and once you’ve narrowed down to the decade, the year that they won. In a few clicks I was able to find the two Male Canadian winners in the 1990s. Not only does this demo have a nice way of showing the data (note that the ‘pay dirt’ for a search is photos of the people you are trying to find), but it also has a marvelous bit of Mac OS X-style animation that shows the lists expanding or contracting as you make choices:
It’s done using Flash, but I bet with a little work it could be done in AJAX.
Besides allowing you to zoom in on the data quickly, it encourages you to explore it to look for what might be unusual aspects that you might not have known. For instance, I learned that Germany has not had a Nobel prize winner in Medicine since 1908, which indeed, surprised me.