I have an html table and to edit a row, you double click on the row and you get a popup that allows you to edit the record.

In certain cases, people don't have entitlements to edit a row. The only visual right now is that the mouse is a pointer ont the editable rows and not on the rows that are not editable and I think this is too subtle. I could make the mouse always a pointer and then just show a "This record is not editable" instead of the detail popup but it seems a little annoying for a user to have a click on a row to then find out its not editable.

The backcolor right now of the rows are alternative row color so i can't really using backcolor to represent editable or not.

Any other suggestions on a good visual indicator to show a user that rows in a table are editable or not editable?

2 Answers 2


It sounds like your tables are being used (properly) for display of significant amounts of data. In this context I think that the ease-of-use of an explicit engagement pattern can be more useful than an implicit one.

An explicit pattern would show the user an "Edit" link or icon (a pencil seems to be a standard UI element here) in an "Actions" column. The "Can Edit" and "Cannot Edit" states can be handled two different ways - You can only supply the element on rows which are editable, or you can represent a disabled state for rows which are not. I personally prefer the latter version (more explicit), as simply not showing anything could lead the user to several different questions such as "Is this row not editable?", "Is there a different way I can edit this row?", "Is the application broken and just not showing me an edit link on these rows?".

I mentioned that your tables are likely data-heavy because I think this makes the addition of an "Edit" link unlikely to cause visual clutter within the page, but if there is a concern about adding elements to the page another option might be to represent editable data as input fields (either actual inputs or just visual representations of them), which entice a user to edit them. This would still be a bit more explicit of a pattern than the hover-state, but still presents the issues of implicit "cannot edit" expression.


To make it less subtle, you could focus on visually changing the row itself on mouse-over rather than the cursor. You could "highlight" the row in some way, for example.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.