I am nearly done building a web site that allows a user to pick a set of files that he/she wants from a list of computers.Right now I'm displaying a modal popup window with checkboxes representing each computer and if one is not available this is displayed to the user after they already make their selection.

I'm starting to re-think this since I think it would be better to provide the user with immediate feedback rather than allowing them to select a PC from the list that may not actually be online or turned on. If I were a user it would annoy me that I could select a a computer and expect to get files back only to see it's not online. So, should I pre-check this list and display to the user only the ones available or maybe disable those choices.

Looking for some feedback on what most people would find convenient. Your answers are much appreciated!!! Let me know if there are questions.

  • Does all the computers have the same set of files the user wants? If so, we can skip this step and transfer the file over to the user by "automatically" pick the file that is geographically nearer to the requester or the one with the higher bit rate. – SimonTeo Nov 12 '14 at 3:33

You can mimic the approach LogMeIn has taken in their various clients. As you can see in their featured screenshots, they use an icon of a computer monitor to symbolize a PC. Computers in the online state are displayed in full color while computers in the offline state are displayed in gray scale. Font Awesome has an appropriate desktop icon. You can differentiate the online states by their saturation values.

Example using Font Awesome

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  • Actually this is a great idea and similar to what I am now doing. If a PC is offline I don't want to allow the user to select it at that moment, so that check box is disabled. However, at one site location there may be 15 PC's and it takes time to check whether each one is online. Not super long but it's notable. But for live results like that there are understandable sacrifices, no? – Tastybrownies Nov 17 '14 at 6:10
  • That really depends on how important this component is to your app. If your users see this dialog often or it becomes too slow when you scale to more than 15 checks, then it makes sense to optimize for a better user experience. The task of optimizing is a different architecture issue, and it's outside the scope of UI/UX. My high-level suggestion is to have a separate process regularly pinging the PCs and then store their status in a data store such as Redis. When the user requests to see the modal, have your system read from this data store and avoid the lengthy checks. – jagwar3 Nov 17 '14 at 16:44

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