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I have a table with automatic row numbering and the user can delete rows.
My question now is if the row numbering should update if a row gets removed. Are there any UX drawbacks from doing so? I imagine that it might seem odd to have number gaps.

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What are the row numbering for? Are they simply a way to identify the data within the table? If so users are comfortable with the row numbers identifying different data when the table is sorted. And there are many programs in which users update and delete information, there should not be a problem in having the row numbering update.

The only use case where there would be a problem would be when table row numbers refer to specific data - functioning almost as a unique identifier - then, in that scenario, one could not update the table row number.

  • If row numbers refer to specific data, then wouldn't you say they're not really row numbers but part of the data? – JeromeR Sep 6 '15 at 19:57
  • Would I? Absolutely. I was just trying to clarify the question. – Mayo Sep 7 '15 at 2:28
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Identifiers?

Does the user need to refer to the row numbers in other places? Does the user need to keep part of a row's information in their memory? If so, since keeping things in memory requires mental work, could you redesign the task to reduce the cognitive load?

Cognitive load

Alternate identifiers? How long must a row number remain associated with specific data—is it seconds or hours? If it's for a long duration, then wouldn't you say the row numbers are part of the data? And, if so, perhaps the data has other identifying numbers or names that can more permanently be used instead of row numbers.

Checklist?

Is the purpose of the numbers simply to help the user track which rows have been dealt with? There are other design solutions to help users do that. Consider a check box, for example:

A checklist

Counting

Does the number add value to the experience by counting the quantity of rows completed and remaining? If so, can progress be inferred by the user's action and then auto-calculated, numerically or visually?

Representing progress visually

Help with scrolling?

In the case of horizontal scrolling, row numbers could (be a kludge to) help users confirm that they're looking at the intended row. In this case, freezing the identifying column and reducing the number of columns might have the same effect. One way to reduce the number of columns is to combine data. Here's an example that displays data from four columns in one:

Reduce the number of columns

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