columns of alphabetical checkboxes: across or down?

1 Sep 2006 - 8:43am
7 years ago
6 replies
1348 reads
Bryan J Busch
2006

Let's say you've got a few dozen checkboxes and associated labels
(that the development team insists is the method they're going with
despite any more elegant proposals). They're ordered alphabetically
in three columns.

Are people more likely to want to scan for the word they want by
looking across then down, or down and then across?

They're currently across then down (which, hello, English words do
that), but it looks funny to me. Maybe it has something to do with
the spacing. There's considerably more space between columns than
there is between rows, but that should be the standard, as well.

Comments

1 Sep 2006 - 8:53am
Juan Lanus
2005

We are used to search downwards. Like, for example, in the telephone directory.
Users are likely to scan a column vertically, then move to te next
just to perceive a lack of ordering, and then notice that the words
are sorted in lines.

For a programmer it's much easier to set the data in lines. It's the
typical decision: have the programmer work more once, or the users
work more many times? And later on have the programmer redo the work,
this time the right way.
--
Juan Lanus
(programmer)

1 Sep 2006 - 8:53am
Paul Trumble
2004

Bryan,

It's not so much what people are going to do but the information
design you create. The space between the columns and rows will either
lead people to read across or down. When you lay it out, if they look
more like rows then columns people will tend to read left to right, if
they look more like columns then rows people will tend to read top to
bottom.

Paul Trumble

On 9/1/06, Bryan J Busch <bryanjbusch at gmail.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Let's say you've got a few dozen checkboxes and associated labels
> (that the development team insists is the method they're going with
> despite any more elegant proposals). They're ordered alphabetically
> in three columns.
>
> Are people more likely to want to scan for the word they want by
> looking across then down, or down and then across?
>
> They're currently across then down (which, hello, English words do
> that), but it looks funny to me. Maybe it has something to do with
> the spacing. There's considerably more space between columns than
> there is between rows, but that should be the standard, as well.
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1 Sep 2006 - 8:55am
Todd Roberts
2005

It seems that fewer eye movements would be required if it went down and then
across - you'd only need to jump from end to beginning twice instead of a
dozen times. I prefer down then across, but who knows if that's
representative.

I would also argue that in the current configuration of across then down
that there should be more space between rows than columns since the list is
chunked by row. If the list went down then across then yes, more space
between columns.

1 Sep 2006 - 10:27am
Christopher Fahey
2005

Bryan wrote:
> They're currently across then down (which, hello, English
> words do that), but it looks funny to me.

"looks funny to me" is your brain telling you to use your common sense and
make it a down-then-across three columns of lists. Juan is correct: the only
reason to do this across-then-down is because a programmer couldn't or
didn't want to spend the extra time.

Why in the world is this a subject of discussion? Sometimes our gut
instincts are just correct -- there's no need to second guess ourselves on
this one.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

2 Sep 2006 - 9:22am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Sep 1, 2006, at 9:43 AM, Bryan J Busch wrote:

> Are people more likely to want to scan for the word they want by
> looking across then down, or down and then across?

We actually studied this just a couple of years ago. The off-line
model was vertical then across since it was a written booklet format.
We suggested across then down, because that's the way people read on
the web. The client was initially very against this idea. However,
testing showed that across then down actually worked better than down
then across.

And we did provide visual cues for horizontal reading - 1pxl light
grey lines with group headings in a pale yellow.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Partner, Design & Usability Specialist
Messagefirst | designing and usability consulting
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (607) 339-9640
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

2 Sep 2006 - 2:24pm
Jim Kauffman
2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On
> Behalf Of Todd Warfel
> Sent: Saturday, September 02, 2006 10:23 AM
> To: Bryan J Busch
> Cc: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] columns of alphabetical
> checkboxes: across or down?
>
> And we did provide visual cues for horizontal reading - 1pxl
> light grey lines with group headings in a pale yellow.

IMO, this is the crucial feature. Visual cues are so powerful, yet they're
often overlooked for UIs as "mundane" as a page of checkboxes.

-Jim Kauffman

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