I have a table of students with their subjects.

On the first column I can set a checkbox to select

a student OR all subjects on the same row.

Then I can click "Remove Students" or "Clear Subjects"

Is that workflow clear, that the checkbox is for BOTH fields?

Or should I put another checkbox column right before "Subjects" column?

I could make the

-Students header font color

-First checkbox column

in green color and the same for the 2nd checkbox column and the Subjects header font color.

I guess that would mean maximum usability not?

enter image description here

3 Answers 3


In my experience, a checkbox in the left hand column will select the whole row. Not selecting, as in this case, both the name and the subjects, but the whole row (the student, conceptually). So, I think it would be expected to select the row (a student) and perform the actions you have available, even if they are only performed on one of the columns.

But, as always, try it out with a few of your users to be sure.


To answer your first question, I don't think it's clear that the check box is for both the fields - Subjects and student name. It appears as if you'll select only the student name.

Here is my suggestion:

  1. From the rule of proximity, the check box appears to connect strongly with student name ( the distance between the check box and student name is less that the other field)

  2. You have multiple ways of solving this problem. On way would be to reduce the distance between student name and subject field and increase the distance between check box and both of these fields.

For Example: (check box)<-------more distance --------->(Student)<-less distance->(subject)

Other solution could be to move the check box at the end, i.e make check box the last column on your page. That might also solve the confusion. For example :

(student name) <---less distance--->(subjects).....................................end of line(checkbox)

  1. You could also highlight the entire row after the checkbox is selected - this would be a visual way of giving the user feedback that he/she is selecting the entire row.
  • 1
    I disagree with your point that the checkbox is linked to the name because of proximity. These are not fields but rows of a table, and it is conventional to select rows of a table by selecting a checkbox in the left-hand column. I do, however, agree that the visual feedback would be good when a row is selected.
    – Nate Green
    Jan 28, 2016 at 22:09
  • I agree that these are rows but because of the bright color combination of subject fields it might create confusion for users. If the subject fields had grey color fill, the visual order would still be less confusing. As you said, I think it would be good to try it out with few users. Thanks for your comment.
    – ypag
    Jan 28, 2016 at 22:20
  • I would agree with toning down the colors, for sure. :)
    – Nate Green
    Jan 29, 2016 at 0:02
  • I use a background color on hovering/selecting a row. :-)
    – Pascal
    Jan 30, 2016 at 14:30
  • @ypag Thanks for the hint with the gap I remove the space.
    – Pascal
    Jan 30, 2016 at 14:32

There is no need to distinguish selecting a student or all subjects in a row. If I'm correct these subjects belong to the student. So the checkbox is meant for that particular student and it's subjects. If you can I recommend to allow selecting multiple rows and choose to either remove them or clear the subjects in them. Multiple actions on multiple rows is quite common and users should not have trouble understanding this. Otherwise there are ways to make this clear like this example:

enter image description here

If it's not possible to clear subjects on multiple rows, don't use the checkboxes for this. Multiple checkboxes mean multiple selections and since this is true for the remove button it will only be more confusing that it is not true for the clear button. You can use radio buttons instead or better; add a button on each row for this action:

enter image description here

  • You are correct and multiple students can be selected to remove or their subjects are cleared.
    – Pascal
    Jan 30, 2016 at 14:33

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