Navigation examples: trees

10 Jun 2004 - 10:05am
10 years ago
1 reply
751 reads
Susan Farrell
2004

I'd like to raise several issues I've seen with trees. Maybe they've
been solved and I just don't know it.

1. Tree widgets sometimes require MIE on Windows version 5.5+ which
makes them suitable for intranets but not for the Internet.

2. Tree widgets sometimes have such small click targets or labels
that they are difficult to operate from that standpoint. Sometimes
they don't respond to font-enlargement controls in the browser.

3. Technologists are more familiar with trees than end users, so some
people just don't know what to do with trees. They click on the wrong
place (such as the folder or label instead of the plus, etc.) and
nothing happens, so they give up.

4. Sometimes the technology used to generate the tree adds so much
overhead to the page load time that the tradeoff isn't worth it.

5. Mixed metaphors, such as scrolling trees inside of tabbed windows
or frames make for too many scrollbars next to each other and
confusing interaction results.

6. Some trees won't let you open/close all the nodes at once.

Does anyone know of trees that don't have any or most of these weaknesses?

--
Susan Farrell <farrell at nngroup.com>

Comments

10 Jun 2004 - 10:26am
david gee
2004

-----Original Message-----
From: Susan Farrell [mailto:farrell at nngroup.com]
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Navigation examples: trees

...

1. Tree widgets sometimes require MIE on Windows version 5.5+ which
makes them suitable for intranets but not for the Internet.

2. Tree widgets sometimes have such small click targets or labels
that they are difficult to operate from that standpoint. Sometimes
they don't respond to font-enlargement controls in the browser.

3. Technologists are more familiar with trees than end users, so some
people just don't know what to do with trees. They click on the wrong
place (such as the folder or label instead of the plus, etc.) and
nothing happens, so they give up.

4. Sometimes the technology used to generate the tree adds so much
overhead to the page load time that the tradeoff isn't worth it.

5. Mixed metaphors, such as scrolling trees inside of tabbed windows
or frames make for too many scrollbars next to each other and
confusing interaction results.

6. Some trees won't let you open/close all the nodes at once.

Does anyone know of trees that don't have any or most of these
weaknesses?
-----End Original Message-----

I'm assuming you're talking about tree controls in the context of web
applications?
Issues 1,2,4, and 6 are implementation issues, caused by unimaginitive
and/or incompetent developers. Creating a responsive, powerful tree
control in a web-app setting requires a number of workarounds to make it
responsive and robust enough to pass for a "real" tree. Many of the
third-party tools are just awful, generating bloated code (#4) and
unneeded server postbacks (#4,#6). As for #1, if you want to enable drag
and drop in your tree control, it's a lot easier to do this if only
targeting IE5.5+, but it's still doable in Mozilla browsers. Other than
that, there's no reason a tree control should be browser specific. #5 is
a design issue - you're right, scrolling trees shouldn't be nested
inside other scrolling elements. I can see it working in a tabbed
environment, though. #2 is simply a CSS issue - if you're targeting IE,
and specifying control font-sizes in pixels, the browser font-sizing
controls wont work.

David

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