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We have a table and on each of the rows, there's a set of actions possible.

For example:

Name   |   Date   |         Actions
Mike     1-Jul-13     View  Add Detail Delete

Do we still need to put a "View" button as an action or is it understandable if we just make the name a link (e.g. Mike)? If they click, they essentially view Mike's details.

If so, as a follow-up question, when will a "View" button be a good choice?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

How can you Add Detail if there is displayed short version of record? User don't see which details are already entered and which could be added. So Add Detail should be inside full record view.

View in your case is not necessary. And Delete could be group operation, like in email clients. So you can simplify your table by removing Actions column.

View could be useful when you display each record not as a row, but as a more complex structure (name, photo, short description, ...), name it Card view, and name itself is a link to detail page. And at the bottom of Card there is a 'View' link to detail page, too. And this link here is necessary for not to go up to click on name.
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BTW, the "Add Detail" is just an example action. Just for illustration. By group operation, you mean, each row should have a checkbox and then there are bulk actions on top of the page? – catandmouse Jul 5 '13 at 17:42
@catandmouse, yes, I mean checkboxes. – Alexey Kolchenko Jul 5 '13 at 20:08

In your example "Details" as third column would be a good choice, but thinking this as a multi-row solution the phrase "Details" will create monotonous impression - more noise as user over a period of time will surely find this disturbing and unnatural.

This turns our solution in lines with Name to be acting as a sufficient hyperlink which means that more information about "Mike" happens to be lying hidden under this. This is clearly inviting users to read the content and nifty means to say you can read more on "Mike" just beneath this by a click, It seems natural - rather making it "Here is Mike, There is his details" (which is why having details as a link is not sticking).

View as a solution if in real need - substitutes your "Details" but an approach recommended for non-computer savvy user. Breaking and pointing information so it's easy to work. View is well suited if it couples with Edit - so the action is a clear split, the Edit can function also when the "Mike" details are opened and Edit can be done in-place. View sometime well replaced by these hyperlinks "Mike" being main subject. "View All" comes handy if it needs to cover a larger area. It is also good when a picture/image needs to show some information by an Icon that is actually "Viewing Information" - a meta-data of the picture.

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You can weigh the difference between the visual cues of the options:

  • View button: It is a button and the affordance and action are quite clear. You click it and it will show you 'something' related to the row. It can be made clearer by making it more explicit - view details.

  • Linking the name: The visual cue is quite clear in this case too. The user is aware that the name can be clicked. But, the end result is not so obvious. What will clicking the name do?

Final decision, use the button if you can and if you do not have enough space, use the link. But, in both the cases, make sure the mental model of the user is quite clear. What is to be expected when the link/button are clicked.

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