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I work in an internal application for my company.

I have a table displaying documents sent for digital signing, with a last column used for displaying buttons with several actions available to each row (show logs, download original file, download signed file, cancel signature process).

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For example, in the first row a document has been sent for signature, and the user may see the logs, retrieve the document sent and stop the process, but it cannot download the signed document.

Now, I am not a big fan of showing disabled buttons to a user who cannot do anything about it (there is nothing the user can do to enable the third button of the first row, except for wait the signer to do the signatures), and I wondered if perhaps another display option would be better:

  • Instead of disabling the button, hiding it, leaving an empty space in place. I fear it may be weird for the user.

  • As a variation of the previous, create a separate column for each type of button.

  • Remove the disabled buttons altogether without leaving any empty space (in the first row, the last button would be displaced left).

Is there any kind of general recommendation for this kind of situation?

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I think you'd be correct in your assumption that users will be frustrated by seeing these disabled actions. However keeping the button is a disabled state would be a much more common and recognizable behaviour than any of you other suggestions here.

I can't speak for your users, only from my experience but the pain point I see is that actions, that the user may need to take, are disabled and users don't know how to enable them. A tool tip or some other notification identifying why the functionality isn't available and how the user may be able to reinstate that functionality (or just clarifying that they can't reinstate) could be much more valuable than just changing how the buttons are displayed.

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