Auto Suggest Behavior – erasing information?

12 Jan 2007 - 8:24am
7 years ago
4 replies
1218 reads
jstrande
2007

Our team recently added an Auto Suggest component to part of our B2B
website. The component is a tool for selecting account numbers – we
sell to multiple channels, including distributors and they can have
30, 50, even 100+ account number/location combinations:

The Auto Suggest component enables people to start typing their
account number and we show them all their matching account numbers in
a standard looking drop-down - if the person starts typing the number
'1', the drop-down contains all their accounts that start with the
number 1:

1XXXXXXXX (United States)
1XXXXXXXX (Japan)
1YYYCCXXU (United States)
1YXXXXXYY (Canada)
1ZYUUUXXX (Hong Kong)
Etc.

When the person selects an account/location, we update their account
information (name and address) to the right of the component
(feedback)

We just incorporated this into our 'Check Order Status' application
and have begun usability testing it. The first person who tested it
seemed to pick it up very quickly; she came in to the application, hit
the drop-down component, selected an account number, tabbed to the
Purchase Order number field, entered a PO and hit submit! Nice!

However, when she went to change account numbers, she didn't use the
drop down. Somehow she figured out that she could type in the Auto
Suggest (we're struggling with whether people will know if they can
type into it or just use the drop down – and we're looking for subtle
ways to denote the edit capabilities).

She went right up to the drop-down, positioned her cursor in the open
space between the account number and the location information and hit
the backspace key and changed account numbers. The trouble is, she
removed the space between account number and location, yielding no
matches – the pipe represents the cursor:

Entry State: 1XXXXXXXX (United States)
Working: 1XXXXXXXX |(United States)
Working: 1XXXXXXXX|(United States)
Working: 1XXXXXXX|(United States)
Working: 1XXXXXXX7|(United States)
Exit State: 1XXXXXXX7(United States)

It seems like there is a simple fix for that – replace the space.
However, one account number can be valid for multiple locations:

1XXXXXXX7 (United States)
1XXXXXXX7 (Japan)

If we simply replaced the space, the person might not see all the
valid account/location combinations.

It is worth noting here that we have a Usability Guideline that states
"don't erase erroneous input".

My initial thought is to remove everything to the right of the cursor,
leaving all the significant information of an account number. So,
taking the example from above, it would look something like this –
again, the pipe represents the cursor:

Entry State: 1XXXXXXXX (United States) – [currently active account]
Working: 1XXXXXXXX |(United States) – [positions cursor]
Working: 1XXXXXXXX|(United States) – [hits backspace]
Working: 1XXXXXXXX| - [info removed, triggers drop down]

Questions Number One: Would it be odd or unexpected behavior to remove
the information to the right of the cursor from the components
editable area?

Questions Number Two: The above scenario 'works' only if they start in
the middle of text, obviously. What if they start typing at the front?

Entry State: 1XXXXXXXX (United States) – [currently active account]
Working: |1XXXXXXXX (United States) – [positions cursor at start]
Working: 3|1XXXXXXXX (United States) – [starts typing, no matches possible]

Again, they can have 100+ account number / location combinations. So
it is very possible that, say, 31X could be the start of a whole
series of valid selections – however, in this scenario, the addition
of the 3 at the beginning of this sequence would result in no matches
due to the remaining information from the previously selected
account/location.

I guess this is really the same question disguised as two different
scenarios: is it odd or unexpected behavior to erase the data to the
right of the position of the cursor?

Background Info/Constraints:
1.) The simple answer is to remove account selection for checking
order status, just look for the order across all accounts. However,
most of the other account features on our site have the requirement of
needing the account number/location – pricing and availability
inquiries are prime examples of this, it is very likely that two
different accounts could have different prices or availability for the
same product – Japan vs. US for instance. We could remove this for
Check Order Status; however, the need exists for other website
features.

2.) The presentation layer component is just the display, a keyboard
event triggers an AJAX call to the server to get the account matching
account numbers – all the logic resides on the server.

P.S. this is my first post to this list and I am a new member of this
group, so please tell me if I've not followed some posting etiquette!
Also, I couldn't find any way to search the archives, to see if there
are existing answers that might help. Are the archives searchable?

Thank you in advance!

Jon

Comments

12 Jan 2007 - 10:08am
jbellis
2005

Jon,
Great question and equally good documentation. Would you like a job
transcribing my company's support system entries? They're currently written
in Gibberish. :)

I personally think that it is incorrect "to remove the information" in the
entry box. I believe that the root cause is "formatting of data." There is
nothing wrong with a system displaying (!) an account number with
formatting, such as spaces or hyphens, but systems should never force a user
to know, or mimic, or enter such formatting. (It happened to me as recently
as last night.)

Your character-wise, filtering, auto-suggest dropdown is incredibly
powerful... it needs only one additional user benefit to be the ultimate:
the developer needs to strip out whitespace [characters that don't
distinguish accounts] when comparing for matches. (Surely you wouldn't
legitimately have 2 different accounts "8888 88" and "888 888"?!) Hopefully
I'm not missing the point, or some subtlety... other than whether your team
"owns" the code that needs work.

Searching the archives:
There's a search box at
http://lists.interactiondesigners.com/pipermail/discuss-interactiondesigners.com/

www.jackbellis.com

PS, your sample user's skill at recognizing the powerful filter feature,
immediately followed by insistence on typing an entry directly, supports my
contention that keyboard use is all about precise action, which translates
to proficiency.

----- Original Message -----
To: <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 9:24 AM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Auto Suggest Behavior – erasing information?

Our team recently added an Auto Suggest component to part of our B2B
website. The component is a tool for selecting account numbers – we

12 Jan 2007 - 10:55am
jstrande
2007

Jack,

Thank you so much for the reply!

Transcribing documentation doesn't sound like my idea of a good
time... however, if it pays well and I can do it while sitting on a
beach, perhaps we could have a discussion... ;-)

I think what we've decided to do is highlight everything to the right
of the cursor, and ignore that information when the call is made to
the server - make the assumption that they've positioned the cursor at
the most meaningful spot to them.

I get what you're saying about the formatting of the data, and it is a
great point! What we're trying to do is add information that will help
people choose the right account, the spacing and parenthesis help
visually separate it from the account number - perhaps that could have
been done better... I'll have to think about that.

Again, thank you so much for the great reply!

Jon

P.S. I'm with you on the precision - and it is amazing to watch/listen
to how fast some of these customer service people can type!

On 1/12/07, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Jon,
> Great question and equally good documentation. Would you like a job
> transcribing my company's support system entries? They're currently written
> in Gibberish. :)
>
> I personally think that it is incorrect "to remove the information" in the
> entry box. I believe that the root cause is "formatting of data." There is
> nothing wrong with a system displaying (!) an account number with
> formatting, such as spaces or hyphens, but systems should never force a user
> to know, or mimic, or enter such formatting. (It happened to me as recently
> as last night.)
>
> Your character-wise, filtering, auto-suggest dropdown is incredibly
> powerful... it needs only one additional user benefit to be the ultimate:
> the developer needs to strip out whitespace [characters that don't
> distinguish accounts] when comparing for matches. (Surely you wouldn't
> legitimately have 2 different accounts "8888 88" and "888 888"?!) Hopefully
> I'm not missing the point, or some subtlety... other than whether your team
> "owns" the code that needs work.
>
> Searching the archives:
> There's a search box at
> http://lists.interactiondesigners.com/pipermail/discuss-interactiondesigners.com/
>
> www.jackbellis.com
>
> PS, your sample user's skill at recognizing the powerful filter feature,
> immediately followed by insistence on typing an entry directly, supports my
> contention that keyboard use is all about precise action, which translates
> to proficiency.
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> To: <discuss at ixda.org>
> Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 9:24 AM
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Auto Suggest Behavior – erasing information?
>
>
> Our team recently added an Auto Suggest component to part of our B2B
> website. The component is a tool for selecting account numbers – we
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> 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
>

12 Jan 2007 - 1:56pm
AlokJain
2006

Jon,

We could look at it from multiple perspectives, but think it'll be useful
for you to validate the assumption that they've positioned the cursor at
the most meaningful spot to them. We are essentially talking of a mental
model issue here. It's important to know why the users made the
modifications the way they did and what are they expecting as a result of
such a modification.

With the solution you are planning to go ahead with , it could lead to
several results in scenario 2 (as there could be several numbers starting
with 3), which could be a problem. so

--
Best Regards
Alok Jain
----------------------------------------------------------
http://www.iPrincipia.com
On 1/12/07, Jon Strande <jstrande at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Jack,
>
> Thank you so much for the reply!
>
> Transcribing documentation doesn't sound like my idea of a good
> time... however, if it pays well and I can do it while sitting on a
> beach, perhaps we could have a discussion... ;-)
>
> I think what we've decided to do is highlight everything to the right
> of the cursor, and ignore that information when the call is made to
> the server - make the assumption that they've positioned the cursor at
> the most meaningful spot to them.
>
> I get what you're saying about the formatting of the data, and it is a
> great point! What we're trying to do is add information that will help
> people choose the right account, the spacing and parenthesis help
> visually separate it from the account number - perhaps that could have
> been done better... I'll have to think about that.
>
> Again, thank you so much for the great reply!
>
> Jon
>
> P.S. I'm with you on the precision - and it is amazing to watch/listen
> to how fast some of these customer service people can type!
>
>
>
> On 1/12/07, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Jon,
> > Great question and equally good documentation. Would you like a job
> > transcribing my company's support system entries? They're currently
> written
> > in Gibberish. :)
> >
> > I personally think that it is incorrect "to remove the information" in
> the
> > entry box. I believe that the root cause is "formatting of data." There
> is
> > nothing wrong with a system displaying (!) an account number with
> > formatting, such as spaces or hyphens, but systems should never force a
> user
> > to know, or mimic, or enter such formatting. (It happened to me as
> recently
> > as last night.)
> >
> > Your character-wise, filtering, auto-suggest dropdown is incredibly
> > powerful... it needs only one additional user benefit to be the
> ultimate:
> > the developer needs to strip out whitespace [characters that don't
> > distinguish accounts] when comparing for matches. (Surely you wouldn't
> > legitimately have 2 different accounts "8888 88" and "888 888"?!)
> Hopefully
> > I'm not missing the point, or some subtlety... other than whether your
> team
> > "owns" the code that needs work.
> >
> > Searching the archives:
> > There's a search box at
> >
> http://lists.interactiondesigners.com/pipermail/discuss-interactiondesigners.com/
> >
> > www.jackbellis.com
> >
> > PS, your sample user's skill at recognizing the powerful filter feature,
> > immediately followed by insistence on typing an entry directly, supports
> my
> > contention that keyboard use is all about precise action, which
> translates
> > to proficiency.
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > To: <discuss at ixda.org>
> > Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 9:24 AM
> > Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Auto Suggest Behavior – erasing information?
> >
> >
> > Our team recently added an Auto Suggest component to part of our B2B
> > website. The component is a tool for selecting account numbers – we
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > 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
>

13 Jan 2007 - 4:40am
jstrande
2007

Alok,

Validate indeed! We did another round of testing yesterday afternoon
with really good results - so I think we've found our interim
solution. I'm not 100% certain that we've nailed the interaction,
however, we've improved it. The one change I think we'll make and test
next week is slightly changing the appearance of the highlighted
text...

Currently the highlighted text is the (seemingly standard) blue
background with white text - the predictive text you see with most
auto completes. We're considering changing that to grayed out text.
So, all the information to the right of the cursor would be gray, the
meaningful text would be the standard black text. Again, testing will
be key here.

Thank you for the reply!

Jon

On 1/12/07, Alok Jain <alok.ajain1 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Jon,
>
> We could look at it from multiple perspectives, but think it'll be useful
> for you to validate the assumption that they've positioned the cursor at
> the most meaningful spot to them. We are essentially talking of a mental
> model issue here. It's important to know why the users made the
> modifications the way they did and what are they expecting as a result of
> such a modification.
>
> With the solution you are planning to go ahead with , it could lead to
> several results in scenario 2 (as there could be several numbers starting
> with 3), which could be a problem. so
>
> --
> Best Regards
> Alok Jain
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> http://www.iPrincipia.com
>
> On 1/12/07, Jon Strande <jstrande at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Jack,
> >
> > Thank you so much for the reply!
> >
> > Transcribing documentation doesn't sound like my idea of a good
> > time... however, if it pays well and I can do it while sitting on a
> > beach, perhaps we could have a discussion... ;-)
> >
> > I think what we've decided to do is highlight everything to the right
> > of the cursor, and ignore that information when the call is made to
> > the server - make the assumption that they've positioned the cursor at
> > the most meaningful spot to them.
> >
> > I get what you're saying about the formatting of the data, and it is a
> > great point! What we're trying to do is add information that will help
> > people choose the right account, the spacing and parenthesis help
> > visually separate it from the account number - perhaps that could have
> > been done better... I'll have to think about that.
> >
> > Again, thank you so much for the great reply!
> >
> > Jon
> >
> > P.S. I'm with you on the precision - and it is amazing to watch/listen
> > to how fast some of these customer service people can type!
> >
> >
> >
> > On 1/12/07, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > > Jon,
> > > Great question and equally good documentation. Would you like a job
> > > transcribing my company's support system entries? They're currently
> written
> > > in Gibberish. :)
> > >
> > > I personally think that it is incorrect "to remove the information" in
> the
> > > entry box. I believe that the root cause is "formatting of data." There
> is
> > > nothing wrong with a system displaying (!) an account number with
> > > formatting, such as spaces or hyphens, but systems should never force a
> user
> > > to know, or mimic, or enter such formatting. (It happened to me as
> recently
> > > as last night.)
> > >
> > > Your character-wise, filtering, auto-suggest dropdown is incredibly
> > > powerful... it needs only one additional user benefit to be the
> ultimate:
> > > the developer needs to strip out whitespace [characters that don't
> > > distinguish accounts] when comparing for matches. (Surely you wouldn't
> > > legitimately have 2 different accounts "8888 88" and "888 888"?!)
> Hopefully
> > > I'm not missing the point, or some subtlety... other than whether your
> team
> > > "owns" the code that needs work.
> > >
> > > Searching the archives:
> > > There's a search box at
> > >
> http://lists.interactiondesigners.com/pipermail/discuss-interactiondesigners.com/
> > >
> > > www.jackbellis.com
> > >
> > > PS, your sample user's skill at recognizing the powerful filter feature,
> > > immediately followed by insistence on typing an entry directly, supports
> my
> > > contention that keyboard use is all about precise action, which
> translates
> > > to proficiency.
> > >
> > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > To: <discuss at ixda.org>
> > > Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 9:24 AM
> > > Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Auto Suggest Behavior – erasing information?
> > >
> > >
> > > Our team recently added an Auto Suggest component to part of our B2B
> > > website. The component is a tool for selecting account numbers – we
> > >
> > >
> ________________________________________________________________
> > > 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
> >
>

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