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Assumption: I assume no user testing could be done, and implementation decisions should be made based on the logic and available data.

Let's assume there are two possible implementations of how UI will look like. How do you decide which one to choose if there are no rigorous arguments for each implementation?

I have a list of items. Users can select items. Should I implement the unselect all button? Such a use case is rare, yet possible. I don't have any evidence that the unselect all button will increase the error rate, and development time is minimal.

My take would be not to include the unselect all button, taking into account that:

  • more simplicity - the better
  • use case is rare
  • The dev team will save time on the implementation

Could you support my way of thinking or propose alternative arguments to make the decision and advocate for it during the team meeting?

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  • It's hard to support nor deny your thinking, such an implementation depends on user testing. If you don't have a budget or time for testing then I'd suggest you to rely on the amount of items in the list. If the list is relatively big, then unselect all button would definitely be better for UX.
    – fakermaker
    Nov 27, 2023 at 12:03

4 Answers 4

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If there's a Select All button, you need an Unselect All button, because users make mistakes and click on things they didn't mean to click on, and someone who accidentally selects everything and can't unselect it is an unhappy user indeed who might not complete the task they were hoping to do today. You don't need to have user evidence for that - allowing users to undo erroneous actions is a usability heuristic.

If users can't select all, but they might select a bunch of stuff and want to start over, a Clear or Reset button would be really nice for them to have, and probably something they'd expect. Would you need to launch with it? Likely not. But it might be something to build soon after launch.

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  • OP hasn't said that there's a Select All button. Also I don't think it's needed to implement 2 different buttons for selecting all and for unselecting, it could be one single button that would select all items on check and unselect them if unchecked. And I think that it's very important to mention that such an implementation depends on the amount of list items, a clear/reset button would be useless if there were 3 list items, wouldn't it?
    – fakermaker
    Nov 28, 2023 at 6:26
  • A "reset" button is two clicks fewer than unchecking three boxes. And better accessibility for those who use keyboard or voice controls.
    – Izquierdo
    Nov 28, 2023 at 17:25
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Your arguments are developer's arguments or PM's arguments. They take to account your development restrictions. This is enough for meeting with development team but what about users?

If I was one of the users I will ask developer team if I have all standard features for this kind of software? If your team develops Excel than I like to see Select All/Deselect All control in Filter Data feature regardless of team's problems as it is habitual for users.

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Starting from the assumption that, given the impossibility of testing, you should try to implement the basic functionalities that good UX requires. Regarding your specific case, the deciding factor for choosing whether to implement the "unselect all" button could be the number of items present in the list.

Let me explain further: if the total number of items that the user can select is low, or even better, if all items are visible on the same page without the need for scrolling, then there is no need to implement the select/unselect all feature. On the contrary, if the number of items is high and the user has to scroll a lot to see them all, it would be very inconvenient not to have the option to select/deselect all at once.

Finally, I would like to add that I am referring to a select/unselect all feature because it is possible to collapse both functionalities into a single checkbox, without them being separate. Moreover, it is a commonly used practice to which your users are already accustomed: Example.

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Personally I'd have a look how big the list can be. If this contains only 10 elements, then it's not a must-have to implement select all / unselect all. But also you want your features to be future-proof, so if you plan to expand this list it's maybe worth to implement it already, or, save it for next iteration.

  1. The less the better - that's a trap. It's better to give the user more flexibility, but not to clatter the view and distract him from the main action.
  2. You said it's not much of the development time, so like @Izquierdo said, if you have select all, there should be unselect all as well.

I think this is by the way more UX not UI issue, because you talk about functionality, and not how big the checkbox should be and where to place it :).

If the view is already cluttered, you can exchange "select all" with "unselect all" on the condition when all of the items are selected. That would save you space and will be usable for users as well.

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