Stuffing focus to textbox controls

30 Jun 2006 - 12:34pm
8 years ago
5 replies
568 reads
cfmdesigns
2004

This may relate to the recent auto-tabbing thread...

For using a proxy server to establish an internet connection, we have one checkbox for enabling the proxy, which makes active a textbox for the server and port plus another checkbox for authorization. Turning on the second checkbox enables username/password fields.

What should happen with the input focus when the checkboxes are turned on? Should it stay where the user last clicked, or should it move to the newly enabled textbox, or go somewhere else. (The first textbox has default cue text in it of "server:port"; the other textboes have no default content.)

I'm of the opinion that the user's next action is always going to be to fill in the textbox, so moving the focus helps the user. ("Always": well, unless he is just playing around, seeing that the controls work. If he is *using* them, then pretty close to "always".)

The response from the Dev team has been "Maybe that's how who you used to work for did it, but that's not how Windows does it, so we won't either."

Is that true? I couldn't find any examples of enabling sub-controls in Windows Explorer (or Internet Explorer or Word) with a little poking around, so I can't be sure that the claim is true. (And if it is true, does that just mean Microsoft needs to improve their behaviors?) Can anyone point me to a handful of examples, be they from Microsoft products or otherwise?

Thanks.

-- Jim Drew
Seattle, WA

Comments

1 Jul 2006 - 10:37am
jbellis
2005

Jim,
The first example I found, in Dreamweaver, upheld your detractors' position.
But who cares?

Perhaps there's a deeper principle here: design is the quintessence of
"exceptions to every rule"? If all you do is follow rules, are you a
designer... does design happen? ... or just craft/engineering/expertise?

One of my favorite examples of simple, exceptional innovation in a control
is that double-clicking the Current Page radio/option button (!) invokes the
choice AND closes the dialog. Try to find a heuristic for that in MS's style
guide. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Ask those guys if they don't have better things to do, like making
polymorphism and encapsulation finally come true... and leave the user
advocacy to people who care. I read a great parable about "that's the way
we've always done it," but can't find it on the web perhaps someone can dig
it out.

www.jackBellis.com,
www.SelfishMoralism.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Drew" <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net>
> What should happen with the input focus when the checkboxes are turned on?
> Should it stay where the user >

1 Jul 2006 - 11:53am
jbellis
2005

Oh yeh, I forgot, this might be another one of those questions that
shouldn't even need to be asked. Users should be able to click directly in
fields that are ostensibly "disabled" and the check box that governs them
should flip to the checked state in so doing. In other words it shouldn't
take two actions to enable the contingent authorization(authentication)
fields.

Would you deny that inevitably the software that affords task completion in
the fewest possible actions will eventually win?

For learnng purposes, yes it's valuable to have a controlling checkbox
*appear* as a "containing" control. But that doesn't mean that after all
these years it should still be an impediment to the facility of interaction.
The fact that it still is on virtually all apps is simply a relic of the
underlying algorithm... but users don't care about algorithms. Free us from
your check box logic. Stripped of all the history, once again it's a vendor
value (in this case the programmer) instead of a user value. They must be
following me around.

www.jackBellis.com,
www.UsabilityInstitute.com
www.WorkAtHomeWednesday.com
www.SelfishMoralism.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Drew" <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net>
To: <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Friday, June 30, 2006 2:34 PM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Stuffing focus to textbox controls

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> This may relate to the recent auto-tabbing thread...
>
> For using a proxy server to establish an internet connection, we have one
> checkbox for enabling the proxy, which makes active a textbox for the
> server and port plus another checkbox for authorization. Turning on the
> second checkbox enables username/password fields.
>
> What should happen with the input focus when the checkboxes are turned on?
> Should it stay where the user last clicked, or should it move to the newly
> enabled textbox, or go somewhere else. (The first textbox has default cue
> text in it of "server:port"; the other textboes have no default content.)
>
> I'm of the opinion that the user's next action is always going to be to
> fill in the textbox, so moving the focus helps the user. ("Always": well,
> unless he is just playing around, seeing that the controls work. If he is
> *using* them, then pretty close to "always".)
>
> The response from the Dev team has been "Maybe that's how who you used to
> work for did it, but that's not how Windows does it, so we won't either."
>
> Is that true? I couldn't find any examples of enabling sub-controls in
> Windows Explorer (or Internet Explorer or Word) with a little poking
> around, so I can't be sure that the claim is true. (And if it is true,
> does that just mean Microsoft needs to improve their behaviors?) Can
> anyone point me to a handful of examples, be they from Microsoft products
> or otherwise?
>
> Thanks.
>
> -- Jim Drew
> Seattle, WA
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

6 Jul 2006 - 8:39am
adamya ashk
2004

In this case the dev team is quoting 'Windows behavior' correctly. You
can see an example in Internet Explorer. Go to Tools>Internet
Options>Connections>Lan Settings.

However, This is only right in a 'Windows' context because the OS is
also customized to be accessible through keyboard shortcuts only and
being able to function in the environment without a mouse.

Try pressing 'Alt' on the window above and the reason for this
hierarchy will become immediately clear (Keyboard shortcuts will
appear and the the focus will be on the first option; if you select
the third option down by pressing tab twice and then the space bar the
fields below will activate but the focus stays on the third check box
so that you can easily un-select it)

The inactive sub-fields in windows are a clunky solution in my
opinion. In tests I have seen many new users click on these fields and
then wonder aloud why they can't fill them in.

The correct solution would depend on your context, you could try
visually emphasizing the options separately along with selection or
even breaking ;) with the Windows way and auto selecting the option
when a sub is clicked. I am sure your dev team would see the error of
their ways during simple usability test with users.

HTH and is not too late.

-Adamya

On 6/30/06, Jim Drew <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> This may relate to the recent auto-tabbing thread...
>
> For using a proxy server to establish an internet connection, we have one checkbox for enabling the proxy, which makes active a textbox for the server and port plus another checkbox for authorization. Turning on the second checkbox enables username/password fields.
>
> What should happen with the input focus when the checkboxes are turned on? Should it stay where the user last clicked, or should it move to the newly enabled textbox, or go somewhere else. (The first textbox has default cue text in it of "server:port"; the other textboes have no default content.)
>
> I'm of the opinion that the user's next action is always going to be to fill in the textbox, so moving the focus helps the user. ("Always": well, unless he is just playing around, seeing that the controls work. If he is *using* them, then pretty close to "always".)
>
> The response from the Dev team has been "Maybe that's how who you used to work for did it, but that's not how Windows does it, so we won't either."
>
> Is that true? I couldn't find any examples of enabling sub-controls in Windows Explorer (or Internet Explorer or Word) with a little poking around, so I can't be sure that the claim is true. (And if it is true, does that just mean Microsoft needs to improve their behaviors?) Can anyone point me to a handful of examples, be they from Microsoft products or otherwise?
>
> Thanks.
>
> -- Jim Drew
> Seattle, WA
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

6 Jul 2006 - 10:15am
jbellis
2005

I just used a great web2.0 app that wisely contravenes the Windows behavior
cited in the IE Lan Settings dialog. At www.wufoo.com (free account) I
created a form and when I check the Email New Entries option, the focus
shifts to the sub box. I'm all in favor of using Windows as guidance when it
improves the user experience. In this situation I see no compelling reason
that it would.

www.jackbellis.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "adamya ashk" <adamya at gmail.com>
To: "Jim Drew" <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net>
Cc: <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 06, 2006 10:39 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Stuffing focus to textbox controls

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]
>
> In this case the dev team is quoting 'Windows behavior' correctly. You
> can see an example in Internet Explorer. Go to Tools>Internet
> Options>Connections>Lan Settings.
>
> However, This is only right in a 'Windows' context because the OS is
> also customized to be accessible through keyboard shortcuts only and
> being able to function in the environment without a mouse.
>
> Try pressing 'Alt' on the window above and the reason for this
> hierarchy will become immediately clear (Keyboard shortcuts will
> appear and the the focus will be on the first option; if you select
> the third option down by pressing tab twice and then the space bar the
> fields below will activate but the focus stays on the third check box
> so that you can easily un-select it)
>
> The inactive sub-fields in windows are a clunky solution in my
> opinion. In tests I have seen many new users click on these fields and
> then wonder aloud why they can't fill them in.
>
> The correct solution would depend on your context, you could try
> visually emphasizing the options separately along with selection or
> even breaking ;) with the Windows way and auto selecting the option
> when a sub is clicked. I am sure your dev team would see the error of
> their ways during simple usability test with users.
>
> HTH and is not too late.
>
> -Adamya
>
> On 6/30/06, Jim Drew <cfmdesigns at earthlink.net> wrote:
> > [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]
> >
> > This may relate to the recent auto-tabbing thread...
> >
> > For using a proxy server to establish an internet connection, we have
one checkbox for enabling the proxy, which makes active a textbox for the
server and port plus another checkbox for authorization. Turning on the
second checkbox enables username/password fields.
> >
> > What should happen with the input focus when the checkboxes are turned
on? Should it stay where the user last clicked, or should it move to the
newly enabled textbox, or go somewhere else. (The first textbox has default
cue text in it of "server:port"; the other textboes have no default
content.)
> >
> > I'm of the opinion that the user's next action is always going to be to
fill in the textbox, so moving the focus helps the user. ("Always": well,
unless he is just playing around, seeing that the controls work. If he is
*using* them, then pretty close to "always".)
> >
> > The response from the Dev team has been "Maybe that's how who you used
to work for did it, but that's not how Windows does it, so we won't either."
> >
> > Is that true? I couldn't find any examples of enabling sub-controls in
Windows Explorer (or Internet Explorer or Word) with a little poking around,
so I can't be sure that the claim is true. (And if it is true, does that
just mean Microsoft needs to improve their behaviors?) Can anyone point me
to a handful of examples, be they from Microsoft products or otherwise?
> >
> > Thanks.
> >
> > -- Jim Drew
> > Seattle, WA
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> > List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> > (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> > Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> > Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> > Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

6 Jul 2006 - 2:31pm
cfmdesigns
2004

Thanks for the advice, everyone. In the end, this sort of a proxy case is rarely
encountered by a user: only during install, only if there's no active internet connection,
and only if they need to do anything with a proxy. It all settles down to a "Who
the heck cares?" situation: so long as users *can* enter the info when they
need to, the rest doesn't really matter.

(Which alas comes out as the answer in all too many QA cases: you have to test these
things, but only the most catastrophic scenarios are worth fixing, so how much effort
do you put into the testing to start with?)

-- Jim

-----Original Message-----
>From: adamya ashk <adamya at gmail.com>
>
>The correct solution would depend on your context, you could try
>visually emphasizing the options separately along with selection or
>even breaking ;) with the Windows way and auto selecting the option
>when a sub is clicked. I am sure your dev team would see the error of
>their ways during simple usability test with users.

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