I have an application where I have a Document Type object, and I need to add key fields to that document. So we have a list of available key fields that the user can associate to a document type, and a list of the associated key fields on that document type.

The user can drag and drop between the two lists, but also click the checkbox next to the name of each key field to toggle whether or not it's associated to the document type. The list filters dynamically, so if the checkbox next to the name is unchecked, it gets removed from the associated list, and vice versa with checking the box.

Another factor is what gets tagged as a unique identifier for the document type. That is to say, a combination of any key fields can be used to create the unique identifier for this document type. This allows a document type to be identified by the combination of First Name and Last Name (or any other combination).

UI Follows in Expanded State: Associated and Available Fields
Collapsed State:
Associated Fields

The design issue that sticks out to me the most is the location and notification of the unique identifier flag.

Somehow, I need to convey to the user that selecting this checkbox is for toggling the unique identifier property, as well as place it in a place that works well. That is to say it needs to be placed in an unobtrusive location, while still easily visible.
It is worth noting that this page is for administrator users, and therefore are more advanced than the typical end user.

What improvements can be made to the location and notification of the unique identifier flag?

I'm not sure I like the *, but I've seen it used in places such as labeling required or optional fields in a form.

  • I'm confused. Does the checkbox control whether a field is part of the unique identifier or does it control whether or not the field is in the 'associated' list?
    – Matt Obee
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 15:00
  • The checkbox on the left of the field name controls whether or not the field is in the 'associated' list. The checkbox on the right of the field name and to the left of the drag controller controls whether or not the field is part of the unique identifier.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


Two checkboxes in a single row is confusing. Selecting a set of fields and then setting the property of each field is a 2 step process. This is not very clear in the UI. May be you can try to set the unique identifier in the next step after the associated fields have been selected.

However to remove the confusion of 2 check box controls the only alternative I could think is a toggle control.

enter image description here

  • The issue with that is that we are building a list that needs to be sortable. It is a two-list design, and there aren't many good designs that I've seen that implement a sortable two list design with drag and drop. With image above, yes, you can associate and toggle the UID, however, sorting the fields at that point becomes impossible (or at least very difficult to comprehend), as you won't know which fields come before the other without having many fields in-between. The list of fields could be upward of 20, but probably no more than that. The available fields to choose from could be hundreds
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 16:10
  • 1
    @Andrew The unique identifier is tied to the field. So for example when the user wants to sort by unique identifier, it will bring all the ON fields to the top. Here it would be Date of Birth. So I am not sure if that is a problem. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 16:14
  • The user is never going to have a "sort" functionality in the sense that they are going to sort by a field (or sort by a unique identifier). We need the user to be able to sort manually the key fields on this page, so that on the main application, the key fields appear in the same order. While I like the toggle design, the checkboxes on the left is what messes it up (assuming this would be a single-list design).
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 17:55
  • If we were to have a single-list design, we would need to have both associated fields (fields with a checkbox checked), and non-associated fields on the same list. Since we are sorting the associated fields manually (based on whatever the user wants the order to be), we could group all the checked fields at the top of the list, and manually sort those (but we would not enable "sorting" of non-associated fields), and this would cause a design rift, having two (significant enough) different kinds of fields in the list.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 17:58

Although it assumes some understanding form the user (and maybe that's through training/documentation), you could use a key graphic, shaded and unshaded:

enter image description here

  • I like the shaded key approach. Assuming the admin user is familiar with SQL Server Manager, it has a familiar feel to it. What I'm afraid of, however, is that while the admin user is more technical in nature, they may not know that the key icon makes it a unique identifier...
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 18:00

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