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I have been working on adding bulk actions to our data tables. I have noticed that most of the data table I have seen display "bulk action" above the table.

I would think that users usually scan the table from top to bottom and select rows they would like to do bulk action on, and therefore, it would make more sense to me to show bulk action options at the bottom.

I am curious to hear if there is a specific design principle that is guiding that approach.

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I am curious to hear if there is a specific design principle that is guiding that approach.

There is one - it's called: It depends.

If the buttons are below the table, they may also be below the fold. This could be a problem in its own as users will have to scroll to learn about the available functionality.

If there are many table rows and users have to scroll in order to see them all, having the top buttons and header scroll as well could be problematic. Ideally only the table rows scroll - the header and top 'toolbar' remain in view. With such setup, the performance effort between a button at the top or bottom is negligible.

Then, although may well not be your case, the bottom of the table is where you see summaries and legends. It can get a bit busy if the buttons are there as well.

So it really all depends on the specifics of the system under question. Bulk actions at the bottom may well serve an optimal design - all other things taken into account.

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I am curious to hear if there is a specific design principle that is guiding that approach.

Yes, it's called discoverability.

I would think that users usually scan the table from top to bottom and select rows they would like to do bulk action on, and therefore, it would make more sense to me to show bulk action options at the bottom.

You can run tests to see if users indeed scan the table and find the action below it. You can also question the importance of the bulk action and how easy it should be to discover. See this article that explains why not everything is evenly important to discover.

But there are other ways to keep the bulk action discoverable. Think about a static footer that always stays in view while you're scrolling the table. See this answer to a question about positioning a save button for large forms.

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