I have a data set where a column can have three values: true, false and null. My first instinct was to use a checkbox for the Boolean values and hide the control altogether in case of null.

Am I on the right path or is there a more intuitive/correct way of doing this?

Also, I am implementing this using jqGrid (jquery plugin). Any idea on how to define the column to achieve this?

  • If users do not need to know the Null state, it sounds reasonable. So, Null would be used to show its option only. But Null even occurs if several Yes' and No's are bundled into one checkbox, where a simple Yes or No woudn't match.
    – FrankL
    Dec 4, 2011 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


The question is whether your users need to know that there is a null column. If they do, then you can't ever count on them being "smart enough" to notice that the column is missing and deducing that it must be a null, so you must display it. Then you'll probably need to come up with a custom indication of null, because the third state of a tri-state checkbox is usually perceived as "mixed values", not as null. Maybe a checkbox with a strikethrough, a NA or a zero would work.

If you're absolutely sure that your users don't need to know about the null column, then you're on the right path.

As to implementation - you should ask this on StackOverflow, it not in the scope of this website.


A disabled check box with a tooltip explaining why it is disabled is another common approach.

  • tooltips don't work on mobile. not part of the question, but still i was aiming for a more comprehensive answer.
    – Dan
    Dec 5, 2011 at 13:09
  • True, but if you don't have to support mobile this approach is often better as it helps inform the user why the checkbox is missing.
    – Tom R
    Dec 5, 2011 at 15:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.