I am working on a UI for a workflow and task management system.

Each task can be in one of three states:

  • new
  • in progress
  • complete

The task is edited in a form which has Save/Cancel buttons. It also includes a check box which states “Complete”. Once the task is saved with “Complete” being checked, a couple of things happen:

  • The task’s status is changed to “Complete”;
  • The task is locked from further editing;
  • The next task is activated.

The issue is that after saving the task as complete, it is irreversible. The checkbox doesn't fit here because it implies you can change its value later.

Any ideas for a good way to convey the irreversibility of the action?

Side notes:

  • The only related question I could find were Popup for a check box and How to design a change state action, but they don't help in this case.
  • Using radio buttons or a dropdown selector wouldn't do the job for the same reason.
  • I know that having irreversible actions in a system is bad practice, but unfortunately, this cannot be changed in the current system.

enter image description here

  • I agree with your analysis that a checkbox comunicates the wrong message. Simply use a push button marked [Mark task as complete] sounds like a simple and clear solution.
    – André
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 15:07

4 Answers 4


You might think about confirming the user's action to complete the task after they've clicked the button. For example, using a lightbox style overlay:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Of course you could choose to use another treatment than the lightbox, the main thing being the user has a confirmation that completing the task is irreversible, but also once the user has learned this, there's an option to hide the confirmation.

  • What happens after the user decides to complete? If we were to use this lightbox, then what is the difference between a button and a check-box?
    – Dvir Adler
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:36
  • After the user decides to complete, you could then complete the task permanently and replace the "Complete Task" button with "Completed" label like you suggested originally. The point is to provide a warning that completing the task is permanent. If the user checks the "do not ask again" box and then completes the task, the next time they go to complete a task they would not see the lightbox - the button on the page would just turn to "Completed" because they are now aware of what happens when they click the button.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 23:28
  • Do you think it's OK to "trust" users with the ability to do an irreversible action with a single click, even though they are aware of it? They might slip, and click it by accident.
    – Dvir Adler
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 7:30

Here's an idea I had. You can help figure it out by commenting, or suggest any of your own with a separate answer.

Instead of the checkbox, add a button labeled “Complete Task”. Upon clicking it, it would turn into a simple label stating “Completed”. The button would convey a feeling of taking an action, and also committing to its consequences.

The only (big) problem I see, besides being unconventional, is that if the user regrets clicking the button before she saves the task, she needs to click Cancel, which will also discard all her other changes.

  • Perhaps the button should turn into a label: "The task will complete when you click Save" - but that means you can't undo without cancelling which would be annoying; or just use a checkbox with extra info - e.g. "This action cannot be undone after Save".
    – jfrej
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 10:19
  • 1
    After clicking this button display message box with standard 'Are you sure?' text and Complete/Cancel buttons.
    – Serg
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 10:37

We have 3 actions that can be done with task

  • save - which saving any changes
  • cancel - which just delete any changes in current edit session
  • done/complete - which ending a whole task

So, how about making 3 buttons. Completing task button could have a label like "Save&Complete". And after clicking message box like {Serg}. In fact "Complete&Save" button will do two thing from list above: Save, Done/complete.


I would go for something similar to what ux.stackexchange.com does on their home page. They show open questions normally. Solved questions will have 'Answers' tab highlighted and closed question will be greyed out so that one can make out that there is no action for this task.

If you are talking about a dashboard and task status are updated as and when they are executed automatically, then I would highlight the entire row for the task whose status has just got changed.

Edit: Forgot to mention that actions will happen on click of the row rather than a separate button (which will work on selected row via checkbox), and colors will indicate which actions are possible on that row

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