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I am working on designing an inventory management system. I feel one design is closer to optimal but I need a sanity check on this. I won't say which is mine and which is not.

The debate is whether to put the actions on each list item, hidden in an ellipsis icon, or at the top of the menu where they can be assigned with checkboxes.

Which design is better? Is there a third way?

  • 1
    why not combine both? use the top nav for the entire list and design 2 for individual behaviour. – Stanley VM Sep 8 '15 at 20:02

Ultimately this comes down to the user's need in the given work environment. Inventory systems are built to allow the user to work with maximum efficiency across a variety of job related tasks. In my experience users of these systems often deal with processing hundreds, even thousands, of records. Some need to be processed in mass.

That said, if the user needs access to batch actions, that is to apply a request across multiple records simultaneously, then select the first option. Otherwise select the second.

If you would like to further reduce the ui footprint and promote discoverability, for the first option, you could consider rolling the individual actions up into a single drop down button in a table toolbar. Or you could employ a floating toolbar to support Fitts law. This toolbar, containing the actions, would become sticky as the user scrolled down. Also, I would add a check box in the column above all the other selections. This would act as a select all feature, selecting all records currently displayed.


First up. The Overflow icon at the right of each icon, isn't the best design approach you could take, since if it's a long list, it might mean to select each of them individually.

Second, There is a possibility that the user accidently selects the overflow icon of the wrong list view item and performs a negative action onto it.

The approach I would recommend taking is Design 1.

However, here are a few modifications I would make.

Instead of keeping the Checkbox visible at all times, I would recommend to keep it hidden and only visible on a Selection activity (say long-press or double-click, dependent on the platform and key mappings.)

As soon as the user selects one item, a Checkbox appears with a Tick against that item. Now he can perform any of the Actions.

Also, Design 1 is universally accepted as it is.

Gmail Design 1

  • IMO, the checkbox should be made visible because selection is one of the primary actions for an email interface. You can have progressive disclosure on secondary actions like marking spam or labeling, but selecting a mail should never be hidden. – Adit Gupta Sep 5 '15 at 20:03
  • This depends on the platform OP wanted it. On Android or iOS, it would look particularly ugly and it's a standard convention that long press = select on phones. Definitely, on PC, however it could be placed. – Swapnil Borkar Sep 6 '15 at 11:28
  • No long press on Gmail app in Android. Also, iOS version has checkboxes and looks fine. imo, long press should be avoided as user is not aware about it most of the times. moreover, I don't think long press is a standard convention. – Adit Gupta Sep 6 '15 at 11:31
  • Whatsapp uses Long Press for Selection and Inbox by Gmail too. Once you are in the Select mode, you could have checkboxes. – Swapnil Borkar Sep 6 '15 at 11:33
  • Long press mimics secondary mouse click or alternative options. It's not meant for primary actions - ux.stackexchange.com/questions/24460/… – Adit Gupta Sep 6 '15 at 11:36

In terms of clicks both design takes 2 click to perform an action. If the requirement demands user to performs bulk action (like performing action for multiple record) then Design 1 suits better.

I believe best practice is to bring the action as close to the object as possible, for multiple reasons, including: 1) Action is in the right context (less ambiguity as to what the actions apply to, etc..) 2) less movement required (don't have to go back and forth between top and middle of the page.

That being said, it breaks if you want to allow multiple selections and actions on those.

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