Seated Action Wells in Desktop Products


This case study covers the use of a seated action well used in a SaaS product to help health insurance auditors complete a single audit in a set of multiple audits.

The Problem

Auditors wanted to be able to view their cases like a stack of work for the day or week. This metaphor, in the physical world, is simple. You just stack a few files on your desk and get to work. But how can you create the sense of a body of work that is the sum of its parts in a digital SaaS product?

What's a Seated Action Well?

A seated action well is a dedicated row, usually seated at the bottom of the screen, that is designed for actions like navigation or player-type controls.

Page Content Overflow in Relation to the Seated Action Well

A seated action well is fixed to the bottom of the page and allows content to flow behind it. This is because the need to act is always present while scrolling.

Styling the Seated Action Well

The seated action well usually requires depth to help illustrate its' place in the user interface. Depth is provided by layering the seated action well above all other content. Shading or shadows will also help.

To help differentiate where the well ends and begins, you may also use a border line. Check out the sample below.


One of the first things I did was create a design language around the status of the cases the auditors needed to audit. This was important because auditors could come across cases that were more complex than others and wanted to leave cases open until they had the time to address the complexity of the case.

This design language, for badges, told the auditors which cases needed to be worked on and which cases needed additional work. The key was to make these badges scannable and allow auditors to make quick decisions at a glance.

The case is ready to be worked on.
The case has been worked on but is not complete.
The case was reviewed and voided because it was not valid.
The case was started but needs more input before an auditor can move forward.
The case is done.
Playlist Metaphor

Auditors are assigned cases by their managers. Those cases are placed in a list with about 100 other cases. This was not very helpful because auditors wanted to organize their tasks and cases in a way that met their work style. These styles vary and are unique. Some auditors want to start with the hard cases first. Others want to start with the easy cases. Some auditors wanted to group work by how much they could handle in a day. Other auditors wanted to group work based on how much they could handle in a week.

This means auditors needed a way to sort their work manually. They needed a folder and a way to create folders. But once they started to work, their workflow was all the same. In fact, a common pattern could be observed in how they approached their work. They worked cases, back-to-back, like songs in a playlist.

Fitts’ Law

Having a way to navigate through the list made sense, and in early designs, I placed a next and previous button at the top right of the screen.

The problem was that the hierarchical placement was wrong. Not very many auditors needed a next and previous button, especially if the list of cases was set up in the correct order. So it was a seldom-used interaction that did not deserve that much prominence.

In addition, auditors would do a final check of their case, and this resulted in the auditor placing their mouse cursor at the bottom right of the screen before they jumped to the next case.

This meant that the best place to access this interaction was at the bottom right of the screen.

MathJax example


Creating a Seated Action Well worked best. Not only because of Fitts' Law but also because I was able to add more action buttons there if needed.

Seen vs. Unseen

Because auditors wanted to move fast and keep track of the work they were doing, I added an affordance that visually indicated whether the case had been previously viewed by the auditor.

Predicted savings of $345.31
Predicted savings of $21.50
Predicted savings of $234.97

Design, in a lot of respects, may seem novel, but in reality, familiarity and like-patterns can be extracted if you look hard enough. Bringing in patterns used elsewhere is risky; however, if the use case fits, it can really bring delight and ease of use to the user, which will result in a better user experience.