We have a an application with a list of rules (probably no more than 10) that a user defines (plus some default one):


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Every rule has a condition it checks for, and some action it preforms when the condition is met.

Logicially, The rules have an if/then/else or Switch/case relationship. This means if you switch the order of the rules it can have significant impact on what will happen. However we've had a hard time conveying this idea to the user (particularly if they dont click on the little help bubble).

Is there a standard pattern to do this?

  • So If I understand you correctly, if I change the order of the rule, the content on the right will change?
    – Mervin
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 20:47
  • No, sorry. The actions are tied to the rule (so "Some specific rule" will always "do something dramatic"). However if you move the specific rule down under the general rule, the general rule will be run and catch things that previously would have hit the specific rule, changing the behavior (only the first matching rule is run). Hopefully that makes sense...
    – Zak Kus
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


One way i would represent this is to use a waterfall pattern. In a waterfall methodology, current step flows into the next step and so on. So, if you could display the stacks indented (like reply to comments in a blogpost) it would instruct the user that the preceding rule is executed first and its output is fed to the next rule. Hope this helps.

Another simple alternative is to use numbering.

Third option is to use pointed arrows between stacks to indicate the flow.

  • Yeah there is no reason i shouldn't do numbering. For the waterfall approach, in this case every element would be under the previous (there are no sibling items), so i am not sure it would help here.
    – Zak Kus
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 21:31
  • You could still add siblings, they will still be under same parent (1a, 1b etc). Think about two replies to the top level comment indented by same level. Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 21:34
  • Now i realise how waterfall does not indicate flow among siblings. Updated my answer Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 22:00

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