I have a web application that upon user login will assign a role/permission based on various criteria from a corporate Active Directory. e.g. membership in a group, attributes in their user entry, etc.

As part of the configuration of this, I have a list of rules that are evaluated in order. Since the rule construction can sometimes be complex, it's been requested that I allow enabling/disabling individual rules until they're correct.

I'm trying to figure out a clear way to show that an individual rule is in a disabled state.

Here's what the table of rules currently looks like:

Screenshot of rule list

I was planning on leaving the 'enabled' state like it currently is. But for the rule list,

What's a good way to show that a rule is disabled?

  1. Text '(Disabled)' after (or before) the rule name
  2. Difference in text or background colour for the row
  3. An icon or something else to represent that the row is disabled

At present, I was planning on doing something like a combination of 1 and 2.

I'm open to suggestions (and also general suggestions regarding other elements, except for the colour scheme which is dictated by someone else).

2 Answers 2


You have set of the rules and need some to be selected. Appropriate controls for this task are checkboxes. Unchecked rows displayed in gray to minimize eye distraction. rules

For quick enabling/disabling rule it should be easily founded (there could be many rules) and operated. So there are two subtask:

  • Finding. To find rule in quick way it should be easily identificated. Most proper rule's identificators are its name and role. Name describes the rule, role mirrors user's abilities. Modelling problem: "Jack can not add an item. Adding is a privelege of admin, so search error in admin rules" or "Our sales director can not edit post. Search error for sales director rule".
    So it is good to set Name and Roles columns first.
  • Operating. For enabling/disabling operation performance it is good to set the checkbox near identification columns (Name and Role). Setting it as first column not only increase operation performance, but also serves as visual indicator (icon-like) of the rule's state.

To simplify the table you can remove criteria list. Criteria is the internal feature of the rule. It also could be complex, as you pointed. So make rule's name self-descriptive and user friendly and hide technical details to the edit rule screen.

Actions column a bit cluttered and has a little space for the controls, that is could be source of user errors. Actions column could be simplified by giving more space for the controls and removing edit icon. Edit screen could be called by clicking on a rule name hyperlink.

  • +1 Except that I'd show icons for "Play" (==Active) or "Pause" (==Inactive) instead of using checkboxes.
    – Bevan
    Jul 14, 2013 at 2:13

Make the text for the disables rules all gray. For the whole row. This will help the user see at a glance which rules are in effect and which are disabled.

Follow this up with an icon on the right that will let a user enable/disable the rule. You are very limited on size here so putting a toggle with "on" and "off" as text is out. Your best bet would be one of the following ideas: (enabled/disabled)

  • check mark / dash mark
  • icon representing the rule / faded "ghost" version of that. Maybe with dashed outline.

The check mark and dash mark are probably more obvious in meaning than the full and faded. I'd use that unless you already designate a meaning to the check mark.

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