I am re-developing the datagrids in a web application. A discussion has started around whether checkboxes to select in a datagrid are still necessary. Have mobile touch interfaces and their general lack of checkboxes in lists and grids trained users enough where this is possible to consider?

  • 1
    And then use what instead exactly...? – AndroidHustle Oct 17 '12 at 13:56
  • i am pretty sure the op means selecting rows – Andrey Oct 17 '12 at 13:58
  • selecting rows. that is correct. – Paul Sylling Oct 17 '12 at 16:48

Recently we had the same discussion when we added support for row-clicks, shift-clicks etc in our web-application. We decided to keep the check boxes because our users weren't used to using the ctrl key for multi-selecting random rows.

In general I would say if clicking the rows links to other pages, then of course you need check boxes to enable multi-select (for example the gmail interface).

If not consider your users and do some user tests to check the consequences of ommitting checkboxes.

Personally I would keep the checkboxes, your application will be consistent with widely used apps like Google Drive and Dropbox, usability is not impaired by leaving them in and the amount of screen estate saved by leaving them out is relatively small on a desktop computer.

  • How much usability testing did you do before deciding to keep the checkboxes? – Paul Sylling Oct 17 '12 at 16:49
  • We tested 3 (actual) users. I would have liked to test a few more, but due to the nature of the application it was hard to find more experienced users as participants. – TomDoes Oct 18 '12 at 6:24

In contrast to TomDoes's implementation, we had a situation where we implemented a click-to-select, double-click-to-open paradigm. With the appropriate hilighting on hover and select and the corresponding cursor changes, our users found the interface to be simple and intuitive. (We did include an additional column with an 'open' button for the users who haven't quite figured out the double-click method of opening an account by double clicking the row. I have not yet done an analysis of how many used the button versus the double-click.)

Our application is targeted to healthcare IT and is purely web based and is not designed or intended for mobile users. (Mostly because, in the US at least, there are an awful lot of hospitals where they limit the mobile devices you're allowed to use. And for HIPAA security reasons.) Our users tend to be a mix of Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, most of them trending to less tech savvy, and they picked up on the paradigm without too much difficulty.

Finally, if you're concerned that they won't pick up on the concept, you could always include some helpful text on hover (a la tooltips) or some small 'hint' type message: "click to select [a row]".

  • Great writeup Roddy. I think it is worth my team doing a small usability test on this pattern. – Paul Sylling Oct 17 '12 at 20:12

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