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I have a table where one column is a 'Comment' section with a textarea where users can add a comment and save it for that row. I'm trying to think of the best way to implement this.

There are a number of ways that I can think of:

  1. Have a button above the table to save all changes in the table which will send all data back to the server.

  2. Have an additional 'Actions' column with a Save button to save individual rows.

  3. Have a save button appear on hover for that row which will allow the user to save the comment for that row.

  4. Make an AJAX call once the user has finished editing text in the textarea and display a message to show whether the save was successful or not.

I think the first option would be a waste of processing as potentially only a small amount of information will need to be saved at a time.

I also think that the fourth option will be the most confusing option for new users so I'm not sure I want to go with this option either.

I'd appreciate any comments on this and what the best practice would be for a users point of view

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Is the table paginated? Does it contain a lot of rows or just a handful? – Toni Toni Chopper Apr 23 '13 at 9:05
It doesn't contain a lot of data and it isn't paginated. I'd say around 15 rows – Serberuss Apr 23 '13 at 9:14
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think your idea #1 is very intuitive.

To improve it, I'd clearly mark the rows that have been edited (by color and/or decoration). Once the user saves the work, and the save operation is successful, you remove the "edited" state from those rows -- visual feedback. Your concern that this is a waste of processing is not really a UX matter and heavily depends on the concrete implementation.

If the table is paginated this solution won't work well because the user can edit rows in different pages. If this is the case I would opt for the auto saving as soon as a comment is entered or modified (your idea #4); an undo action should be provided as well.

Idea #2, I wouldn't pollute a data table with an action column. The table is for the content (this is my personal point of view).

Idea #3, I'm not much in favour of it because hover buttons or actions are more difficult to be discovered.

share|improve this answer
You're right, my comment about #1 is not really a concern from a UX point of view. Thanks for pointing that out – Serberuss Apr 23 '13 at 9:17

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