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We have tables with data where double clicking a row switches the table with corresponding row details. Currently a user can select a row and click a button to view details as well.

Is there a way to get rid of the view details button and make it intuitive so that the user knows double clicking a row will display the details?

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Is there a way to get rid of the view details button ? and make it intuitive so that user knows double clicking a row will show him details ?

Intuitive? I very seriously doubt it.

The difference between the two approaches is that the button is discoverable: it sits there, visible, ready to accept some sort of action on the part of the user. Nothing (in most cases, anyway) short of explicit mention of the possibility indicates that double-clicking will do anything in particular, let alone what it will do.

Now; left without another alternative, it's quite likely that people would try to double-click, either on the off chance that it does something useful, or because they intend to invoke some other behavior (like whole word selection in a text field). Then they would discover that double-clicking takes them to a details view. But unless there is something explicit in the user interface that indicates that double-clicking on a part of the row will even do anything, let alone lead to a details view for the row that was double-clicked, the double-click option counts as non-discoverable behavior.

Non-discoverable behavior should generally be avoided in user interface design for functionality that normal users are likely to use. It can however be used to invoke advanced functionality, or provide shortcuts (and be documented in a manual or help text). A good example of this might be Windows' tendency to use the action of holding down Shift while right-clicking to give access to more advanced options, including for example in Explorer "Open with" and a delete command that bypasses the recycle bin; this isn't something that a beginner user is likely to do at random, but it also isn't options that those same users are likely to want or need to use. Another example of discoverable versus non-discoverable behavior is that even the very early Mac OS Finder allowed you to open a file by clicking on it and choosing File -> Open through the menu; double-clicking on the file's icon was provided as a shortcut. In contrast, I don't think Microsoft ever did anything similar to this in Windows (the right-click menu introduced in Windows 95 doesn't count because right-clicking also counts as non-discoverable since there is nothing on the screen to indicate it will do anything, let alone what it will do).

If the button takes so much screen real estate as to be a problem from that perspective, I suggest considering other possibilities. For example, you might consider making it possible for the user to choose to hide the button through some sort of settings interface, once they are familiar with the double-clicking approach. Or, like Franchesca mentioned in a comment, reduce it in size and hide it after the user has used the non-discoverable behavior for some period of time (but do be careful to not pull it out from under their feet).

  • It's really hard to balance discoverability with minimalisation. – Franchesca Jun 12 '14 at 7:50
  • @Franchesca Indeed, but giving the user the option of hiding "non-essential" elements and requiring advanced behavior for invoking the corresponding functionality is one possible approach that would seem to balance ease of use for new users with reduced screen clutter for more advanced users. – a CVn Jun 12 '14 at 8:18
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    What about automatically reducing in size, then eventually hiding the button altogether? If you are aware of the user's identity and you can detect their continued use of the double-click functionality, then it is possible. – Franchesca Jun 12 '14 at 8:30
  • @Franchesca Good point. I took the liberty of incorporating that into the answer. – a CVn Jun 12 '14 at 8:34
  • is there any example of this ? i.e. hide options based on user identity and usage ? That's good idea but it will in itself mean substantial coding from front-end to backend. – John Smith Jun 12 '14 at 15:49
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The normal way to display further details related to a specific row is to show it inline with the grid, rather than replacing / switching it with the grid. The button for viewing the row details can be a little plus sign at the start of the row. This can change to a button to hide the details (a minus sign) when they are visible.

  • but the details for a row is simply list of items(rows) that may be well over 20 and each row then can be be drilled into to list another 20 items each. [+] sign doesn't seem good – John Smith Jun 12 '14 at 4:51
  • @JohnSmith What I described is a very commonly used design pattern for grids that contain sub-grids (the question didn't ask about sub-grids of sub-grids). It is a better solution than replacing the main grid completely with a details grid because it allows easy navigation, and comparisons (you can open row details for multiple rows). – Franchesca Jun 12 '14 at 7:49
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Double clicking is not an action people perform when browsing ( I am assuming that your app is on the web) therefore it is totally counterintuitive. Having said that your current approach of select/click button also seems a little bit complicated. Usually it is the "clickability" is discovered by the fact that the cursor changes to a hand when something is clickable - that is usually enough. If you need to have a button you can also reveal a view details button when they hover over a row as well. (or a plus sign as suggested above - although if you take people to another page for details I would recommend ">" symbol.

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Agree with Franchesca, use a "+" in the row label (or in the left most column) to more explicitly indicate it's expandable. Doubling clicking to expand is not conventional in a table, it's common behavior is to select a word of text.

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For what platform?

Desktop application - maybe.

Web application - no. Simply because I've never see that someone did that

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Double clicking usually means that something will open in Edit mode. So it would be better to use some explicit icon for that... may be an Expand icon if the details are to show on the same page..or a explicit icon with row to open it in details view.

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