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I am redesign a business oriented site with many data tables. In the first column of each data-table, I have the Actions. However as you can see in the image, where I have 3 different data-tables (the layout of the data-tables is different now, but it will be redesigned) the actions are really different and they vary, both verbally and numerical (from 1 to 10 actions in a data table). I wanted to ask your opinion if you think it is better:

(a) to leave a drop down for all the actions

(b) to categorize them and have the basic actions (e.g. delete edit) with icons (and explanatory pop-up) and the other 'different type' actions in a drop down menu.

(c) to show all the actions with icons and if there are going to be more than 3, then to design an icon (also drop down menu) for 'More', to showcase the other options.

I just believe that a drop down for 2 or 3 options is not very usable for many reasons and I would like to avoid it! Any thoughts?

enter image description here

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Oh boy - I struggle with this issue of good UX vs. consistency within a larger system all the time. And I will tell you, at least for users of our highly technical enterprise system, the answer 85% of the time is "we want it to work like the other things we know." Even if the other way is inane, that's what they are used to, and until we redesign the whole thing, they want consistency. Actual mileage may vary, of course.

That said, a couple of things. First of all, an almost universal placement within a table is to make the actions column the RIGHT-most column in the grid, with the left column being used for naming or ordering.

Then, given that you have many grids with many different types of functions, your best bet may be to universally use an actions menu of some sort, which may appear only on hover over a row (to limit visual clutter), and upon clicking drops down to reveal the options. The benefit here is that you can have any number of options, dynamically allocated if need be, across any number of interfaces. I agree that if there are universally common tasks - such as delete, clone, activate, whatever - you might consider having dedicated controls for those... but in my experience the menu works well when there is a potentially variable list of options.

Given that you may have a lot of different types of information in different grids, you might consider allowing expandable rows to expose secondary information or optional controls for any given line item.

Obviously we'd need to know much more about your interface, application, user base, requirements, etc. to give you a proper assessment. But I'd say your middle grid, while not visually exciting, is by far the clearest and most usable of the bunch, and you could do worse than to start with that as a jumping-off point.

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I'd offer the user consistency by choosing option B.

Categorize 2 or 3 default options (like edit and delete) and then show a button with 'more options'.

It also depends on the most used tasks of the user. Will items be deleted or edited frequently?

However, I would place the tasks on the same row as the item it will be applied to. Placing the optional tasks in a top bar won't make it clear to which item the action will be applied to.

A quick example: enter image description here

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