I have a table where the user can perform some actions for some rows but not all. These actions are independent of each other. The table could potentially have unto 20 rows.

I have 2 solutions. I think I prefer option 1 as it separates the task of applying bulk actions from each other making them easier process. Also the individual action links could be put in an overflow menu if more are added.

Which do you prefer? any other options I could consider? thanks.

Solution 1:

Let the user apply the actions individually for each row but also provide a dropdown of bulk actions that can allow a single action to be applied to selected rows. enter image description here

Solution 2:

Let the user select actions to be applied for each row and provide 2 apply all buttons below the table. enter image description here

2 Answers 2


The problem with Option 2 is that the actions seem to apply to everything that's checked. If I see four blue checkboxes across two columns and click Install on Selected, I might think I'm applying the action to all four items.

Option 1 is nicely contextual if the action on the button changes depending on what's selected in the dropdown. It's very clear to the user what items are selectable, and what the action will be applied to.


Treat the actions as contextual, so they show up once items are selected, and in proximity to the column / dataset.

Solution 2 is not standard, but it does make obvious what items can be modified by an available action. If the primary use of the screen is for action based workflows, this might do the job.

I'm not sure what limitations you have in terms of screen real estate, but you can use space above the column (or make an overlay below) to have a button appear once the user has selected an item.

enter image description here

Here when only one column has selections:

enter image description here

Adding a number badge to the button allows them to see how many are selected, which is helpful for data heavy applications.

Once the last item is deselected (or the action initiates), the button disappears. Ideally you have a notification that follows a successful operation.

The downside to this approach is you might have some wide tables and a limited viewport, so it's not easy to see what's selected, and you have two sets (maybe more if there's more actions) of checkboxes.

Try to reduce the UI

  • Right now you have a visual gap between selecting an action and applying an action, without indication of how many records this affects.

  • You also have two labels: once in the selection control, and one for the button. It's redundancy without reward, as the other actions are buried in the dropdown menu, so it's a memory tax on the user (especially if you need to have more actions in the future).

You can see contextual actions in Gmail, where once you select emails, several icons appear for various actions:

enter image description here

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