Would you suggest for a To-Do List section of a project management app I am working on have multiple checkboxes?

Or keep things simple and "common" using single checkbox?

I think that multiple checkboxes will show milestones/stages in a task clearly. But if I were to want to assign due dates to them it becomes a lot more complicated both from a UI and development stand point.

4 Answers 4


I don't know what your users want, but I'd personally prefer to have single-state tasks that can be grouped together.

So the application treats/sees the to-do list like:

  • Write new article [ ]
    • start writing [ ]
    • complete rough draft [ ]
    • proof read #1 [ ]
    • revise draft [ ]
    • proof read #2 [ ]
    • complete final draft [ ]
    • get editor approval [ ]
  • New album [ ]
    • write songs [ ]
    • write lyrics [ ]
    • record in studio [ ]
    • mastering [ ]
    • get work releases [ ]
    • get label approval [ ]
  • Get milk [ ]

But the user might just see this:

  • Write article [3/7]
    • Next: revise draft [ ]
  • New album [4/6]
    • Next: get work releases [ ]
  • Get milk [ ]
  • Ah. I never thought of the 2nd point where users will just see "next ...". I did think of the 1st point, and I though if I have tasks in a project that will have similar stages, with single-state task, I'd have to create sub-tasks repetitively. Any ideas on that?
    – Jiew Meng
    Dec 31, 2010 at 7:25
  • 2
    @jiewmeng: Hrmm... you could allow the user to save task "templates" so that they just need to name the "group" (i.e. "Jan 2011 Article") and the subtasks will be generated automatically. Or, you could have a list of generic subtasks that are grouped into categories like "Development", "Writing", "Business", etc. that the user can just drag-and-drop into their new task. Dec 31, 2010 at 9:47

The thing about project management is are very different directions you can go with them.

Some focus on showing as little information as possible, such as the "next..." lists, while others aim at giving you as complete an overview of a project as possible.

A good example of the latter is pivotal, where a project is broken down into features which move through the states unstarted, to accepted, while each feature contains it's own task list. Tasks on this are just a checkbox to mark as complete. http://www.pivotaltracker.com/

If you are aiming to be as simple as possible, focusing on productivity for a single user, then you might want to do something like Lèse majesté's suggestion with nested subtasks.

You can assign due dates to a task and have a checklist of subtasks.

The ability to clone and edit an existing task when creating a new one could solve your problem of repetition. Rather than using templates and adding more interface clutter, you just add an inkdropper style tool to copy an existing task and edit from there.

If you're aiming for bigger collaborative projects with multiple users, then I'd look to tools like pivotal for inspiration.


The multi-checkbox approach shown in the first example is overwhelming. A system like the one used in MindManager that shows a circle with quarters colored in to represent the percentage complete for a task (25, 50, 75 & 100) is less obtrusive, and requires a single control rather than a series of check-boxes. It could translate well to 'started, done, checked and live'.

Assigning due dates could be simple or complex. A color system could shade overdue elements in red, those due within a week (user set time range) yellow, and those further off in green.

For a single 'parent' task that can be broken up into stages, nested 'child' tasks are helpful. These can be shown with indentions in the interface and borders to group them with a parent task.


I would go for the single check-box option. It's more clear for the user, it will achieve instant gratification for a user (opposed to flow type grouped check-boxes) and it will inadvertently force the user to create simple, to-the-point, manageable tasks, which can be checked off with one click.

In my opinion todo-lists work because you can feel your moving forward, so with that in mind keep it as simple and goal driven (ticking off tasks) as possible.

Maybe you can also check out: http://www.realmacsoftware.com/clear/ (no stocks), easy to the point todo app for Iphone.

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