So, I'm trying to understand which of the following is the best UX for a web application (not a web site). The area of the application I'm considering is the administration side of the app responsible for configuration.

So, I have a complex form with an update button. Consider the following:

scenario 1:

The update button is locked until the form is correctly filled in or if the user cannot edit the content.

scenario 2:

If the user can update the content of the form, the update button can be clicked at any time.

When the users clicks the button if the form isnt filled in correctly a message is displayed to the user informing them WHY they cannot submit their changes.

If the content of the form is readonly for a particular user, the data isnt displayed as a form and the update/cancel buttons are not rendered.


  • What determines whether the person can update this form? If the system can know that a person will not be able to update the form no matter what data they enter, then I'd wonder why they have access to it at all. That might help pare down the cases to design for. Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


Agree with JohnGB, except I would say don't wait until the user clicks the button to give feedback - have a bubble popup that appears on rollover that gives the user the correct context.

I wouldn't necessarily make the button look obviously 'disabled' - as people may never even try to click it - they'll think the form is broken (I've seen this in user testing with grey designed buttons).

I really like the button behaviour on this page: (roll over the 'vote' buttons): http://www.smarta.com/smarta100/2011-winners

  • Its a nice design. And I agree feedback should be given immediately and also highlighted when the user clicks update incase they didnt notice Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 10:44

Have you thought of using messages instead? If a user hasn't filled in everything you want, they may not know that they haven't. In which case they will be frustrated and annoyed because the update button isn't doing anything.

You could just give them a popup message when they click on it saying something like "Please fill out all the required content before updating". Ideally also let them know what they haven't filled in.

If they aren't allowed to edit the content, they should get the option to change it in the first place, so there is no need for an update button.

Your suggestion of not showing the buttons when in read only mode is a good solution.

  • I dont think my description was clear! Scenario 2 was suggesting that we display a message when the user clicks the update button!! So we agree! Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 10:42

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