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I'm working on a UI where there are multiple roles, with two (Finance and Legal) that are constrained to only support one user.

I'm using a fairly standard matrix, with checkboxes that become editable upon clicking an 'edit' link

Since unlike a radio button where choices are mutually exclusive, I was wondering if instead of surfacing an error message upon Submitting, if there's a more effective selection device. I'm relying on some hint text saying '1 user' right now to indicate the constraint.

I'm wondering if there's a better way out there.

Any feedback is much appreciated.

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Since there are different type of roles it is probably a good idea to separate their management.

You could use something like that for roles that are unique :

I'm of the assumption that the administrator knows the users she want to be Finance and Legal.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

If it is relevant you can remind this role next to the user's name in the matrix.

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    Thanks for the suggestions on this, both of you. I agree with separating the specific, single-user roles. – Mike M May 9 '13 at 21:08
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A radio button would be ideal, but you do not want to confuse the user by using check box and radio button in the same row.

You can de-highlight the options when any user is selected. Grey out the remaining options when any user is selected. (There is some confusion with this approach, since it might lead to the user thinking that his option is locked and cannot be changed, even though when that is not the case.)

If you are not bound to using this format. Remove the legal and finance options from the table and represent them as drop down menus.

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