Wireframe of Reports List View

Is it not a good practice to show the "delete" button in inactive state until the record is selected?

QA has posted a bug stating that the customer wasn't sure how to delete the report.

QA's recommendation is: Don't grey out delete option in reports section instead throw error when clicking on it without selecting any report.

I feel "Delete" button should be in inactive state when none of the records are selected.

My reasoning:

1) In many cases, action buttons will appear based on user selection (ex: gmail). In this case, "Delete" button is displayed in the page but it is in inactive state. Most of the users understands this behavior and will find a way to enable it. The logic is as simple as throwing something into the trash bin; one cannot throw something into the bin with empty hands :)

2) Delete is not the primary action in this page. Primary action in this page is "Create New Report". Enabling "Delete" button will make it more prominent than the "Create..." button. Also, this would entail changes in many pages for the sake of consistency (esp in the pages where "Delete" is not the primary task)

3) Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. We should rather eliminate error-prone conditions. - NNG

2 Answers 2


I would suggest:

  1. Change "delete" to "delete selected". This makes it clearer what the button does (whether you have any records selected or not).
  2. Consider changing the layout so "delete" is next to "selected: 2". This would make it clearer that it applies to the selected items. Right now it is next to "create report", an action that has nothing to do with the current selection (You might only need to do one out of this and the first suggestion).
  3. Continue to have the delete button grayed out when no records are selected. This follows convention and conveys important information that the action is not possible at the time.
  4. Provide another path to delete a single item. This could be a delete button on every row, as Piotr Zięba suggested. Or, you could provide a delete option once you have opened an item for editing (which I assume is what happens when you click on the pencil icon). I would usually prefer the former option, but it may depend on the specifics of your situation.
  • 2
    I agree with number 3, it certainly seems the most intuitive. Unless multiple users are complaining that they can't figure out how to delete an item than it's likely not an issue. There will always be one person that doesn't understand a facet of your application and you can't please them all. Perhaps run a user test and have deleting a record as a scenario to see if others stumble over it.
    – DasBeasto
    Nov 4, 2015 at 19:10

I would go for removing Delete button from there and showing it only when multiple reports are selected. Especially, if "Create report" is the primary action.

Apart from deleting option in bulk edit, though, I would add a single Report delete icon next to all reports. It would both suggest that you're able to perform such action (which may give a hint that a multiple selection would work as well) and be just handy for single Report deleting.

  • 4
    If a button is hidden, the user may never know that the functionality exists.
    – Igorek
    Nov 4, 2015 at 15:44

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