Displaying Status on a DROP_DOWN

10 Aug 2004 - 4:11am
9 years ago
9 replies
576 reads
Martyn Jones BSc
2004

Out of curiosity - is there a convention for what to display as the default
item in a drop-down? For example, should it be some instructional text such
as, "Select from the following..." (however, in HTML I think this would need
to be added as an item in the drop-down list, although it wouldn't has any
associated navigation functionality). Alternatively, should it display the
most recently selected option? Does it implementation depend more on it's
purpose (i.e. navigation tool, selection mechanism, others)?

Martyn

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of Peter Bagnall
Sent: 09 August 2004 20:50
To: Svoboda, Eric
Cc: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a Button

If I understand what you're getting at correctly then the problem is
that it's unclear whether the button shows what the state is now, or
what the state will be after it's clicked. That makes it ambiguous. I
suspect that's what's bugging you - it's a nasty ambiguity to have in
an interface. Eric is absolutely correct to say that is a button is
non-standard solution to this problem, and that's a major contributing
factor since buttons generally do what is shown on the button - not the
opposite (which it would if it were to show it's current state since
then clicking it would cause it to leave that state).

A drop down solves this since their behaviour is consistently
understood - they do show the current state. Other solutions would
require that you can see all the options at once, and have a way of
highlighting the one that's selected - say like the mutually exclusive
button groups that MacOS now uses in the finder to select between
icons, list and column modes. That might be a better solution that more
space consuming radio buttons and labels, and more direct than a drop
down (you get to see all the options without having to click), while
still avoiding the conflict you get with buttons.

Hope that helps.
--Pete

On 9 Aug 2004, at 20:22, Svoboda, Eric wrote:

> I have to agree with Jim that a pull-down (or similar element) would be
> standard here. Of course, if you have just 3-4 selections, a radio
> button group would be nice.
>
> I think you feel uneasy because your current design in non-standard.
> Buttons generally don't show status just as status displays generally
> aren't controls. Elements like the pull-down and radio button group
> offer both status display and control.
>
> Could you maybe share a screen shot with us?
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-
> bounces at lists.interactiondesign
> ers.com] On Behalf Of Jim McCusker
> Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:58 PM
> Cc: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a Button
>
> Jon-Eric Steinbomer wrote:
>
>> The reasoning behind showing the distribution on the button is that
>> the user can open the properties dialogue and see at a glance the type
>
>> of distribution the numerical value is being drawn from without
>> needing to click on the button and see the distribution settings. I
>> have problems with displaying the current status of the value on the
>> actual button that is used to change the status but I can't really put
>
>> my finger on why. Any thoughts?
>
> You can probably use a pull-down button (like MS Office uses for text
> color, etc) to select from a list, if it's a simple choice list. If
> there's additional info needed, maybe the choice would bring up the
> dialog? Something like:
>
> [_/\_] (press button)-> [_-_] (selection)-> options
> dialog
> -------------------
> |_-_ Gaussian... |
> |/\ Triangular...|
> -------------------
>
> Jim
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Peter Bagnall - http://people.surfaceeffect.com/pete/

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Comments

10 Aug 2004 - 8:18am
Mike Beltzner
2004

Martyn,

A good rule of thumb to use is that if you can make a sensible
assumption for a default value from your list, the interface should do
so. For example, if you were using a drop down to have the user select a
month of the year, the drop-down list could have a default selection of
the current month.

If no such sensible default can be made, or if you really want to draw
the user's attention to the fact that they need to make a choice, you
can either leave the box empty with some indication that the field needs
to be filled, or you can enter the inactive-styled text (ie: grey and
italic) "Select an <option name>" as you suggested.

That's *my* convention, anyway. "Conventions" are always interesting
things of course :) I could point you to the Apple Human Interface
Guidelines for "Drop Down Commmand Boxes"
(http://developer.apple.com/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/OSXHIGuidelines/XHIGControls/chapter_10_section_3.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP30000359/TPXREF163)

if you want to see the way that Apple says it should be done, or you
could grab a copy of the Microsoft User Experience Guidelines (it's in
old-fashioned "book" format) and browse through those.

cheers,
mike

Martyn Jones BSc wrote:

> Out of curiosity - is there a convention for what to display as the default
> item in a drop-down? For example, should it be some instructional text such
> as, "Select from the following..." (however, in HTML I think this would need
> to be added as an item in the drop-down list, although it wouldn't has any
> associated navigation functionality). Alternatively, should it display the
> most recently selected option? Does it implementation depend more on it's
> purpose (i.e. navigation tool, selection mechanism, others)?

10 Aug 2004 - 8:52am
Amit Deshpande
2004

Would usage of drop downs and similar elements not actually hide the
information from the user?
Only one element is visible, and the others will be visible only after
dropping it down.

It is just like having symbolic/metaphorical buttons, and when the user
rolls over the button, a tooltip tells him what it does...

Would it not keep the user guessing what other options, and how many
options are there?

Cheers,

Amit Deshpande
http://www.amitdeshpande.com

Mike Beltzner wrote:

> Martyn,
>
> A good rule of thumb to use is that if you can make a sensible
> assumption for a default value from your list, the interface should do
> so. For example, if you were using a drop down to have the user select a
> month of the year, the drop-down list could have a default selection of
> the current month.
>
> If no such sensible default can be made, or if you really want to draw
> the user's attention to the fact that they need to make a choice, you
> can either leave the box empty with some indication that the field needs
> to be filled, or you can enter the inactive-styled text (ie: grey and
> italic) "Select an <option name>" as you suggested.
>
> That's *my* convention, anyway. "Conventions" are always interesting
> things of course :) I could point you to the Apple Human Interface
> Guidelines for "Drop Down Commmand Boxes"
> (http://developer.apple.com/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/OSXHIGuidelines/XHIGControls/chapter_10_section_3.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP30000359/TPXREF163)
>
> if you want to see the way that Apple says it should be done, or you
> could grab a copy of the Microsoft User Experience Guidelines (it's in
> old-fashioned "book" format) and browse through those.
>
> cheers,
> mike
>
>
> Martyn Jones BSc wrote:
>
>> Out of curiosity - is there a convention for what to display as the
>> default
>> item in a drop-down? For example, should it be some instructional
>> text such
>> as, "Select from the following..." (however, in HTML I think this
>> would need
>> to be added as an item in the drop-down list, although it wouldn't
>> has any
>> associated navigation functionality). Alternatively, should it
>> display the
>> most recently selected option? Does it implementation depend more on
>> it's
>> purpose (i.e. navigation tool, selection mechanism, others)?
>
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at ixdg.org
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> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
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>

10 Aug 2004 - 9:22am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Aug 10, 2004, at 9:52 AM, Amit Deshpande wrote:

> Would usage of drop downs and similar elements not actually hide the
> information from the user?
> Only one element is visible, and the others will be visible only after
> dropping it down.
>

Sometimes you have to make a trade-off between showing everything or
keeping some things hidden. A drop-down is a great space-saver when you
only have a limited area to show a lot of choices.

If you have the space, I'd put the default or most-used choice as the
first item on the list and move the "Please select..." to a label.

Dan

10 Aug 2004 - 9:22am
whitneyq
2010

At 10:22 AM 8/10/2004 -0400, Dan Saffer wrote:
>Sometimes you have to make a trade-off between ....

You might want to see the paper "Should I Use a Drop Down" on choosing form
elements on Caroline Jarrett's Forms That Work

http://www.formsthatwork.com/papers.html

Whitney Quesenbery
Whitney Interactive Design, LLC
w. www.WQusability.com
e. whitneyq at wqusability.com
p. 908-638-5467

UPA - www.usabilityprofessionals.org
STC Usability SIG: www.stcsig.org/usability

10 Aug 2004 - 9:57am
Svoboda, Eric
2004

I, for one, find instructions and labels like "please select" or "please
answer" to be insulting. Akin to labeling every door in a building "open
this". Instructions should add value or get out of the way!

Regarding showing a default or most-used choice: I'd caution that using
default values for required fields is potentially dangerous,
particularly on long forms where the user is tempted to scan quickly and
miss details. Better to leave it blank (which helps call attention to
the fact that it needs to be answered) and catch an null in validation
than to have bogus required data submitted. Messy.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of Dan Saffer
Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 9:22 AM
To: 'Interaction Discussion'
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a DROP_DOWN

On Aug 10, 2004, at 9:52 AM, Amit Deshpande wrote:

> Would usage of drop downs and similar elements not actually hide the
> information from the user?
> Only one element is visible, and the others will be visible only after

> dropping it down.
>

Sometimes you have to make a trade-off between showing everything or
keeping some things hidden. A drop-down is a great space-saver when you
only have a limited area to show a lot of choices.

If you have the space, I'd put the default or most-used choice as the
first item on the list and move the "Please select..." to a label.

Dan

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10 Aug 2004 - 10:28am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Aug 10, 2004, at 10:57 AM, Svoboda, Eric wrote:

> I, for one, find instructions and labels like "please select" or
> "please
> answer" to be insulting. Akin to labeling every door in a building
> "open
> this". Instructions should add value or get out of the way!

Obviously this depends on your users. In most cases, you are probably
more web-savvy than many of them. It might be more akin to labeling
doors "push" or "pull." Your argument below, about people scanning
quickly, would seem to argue FOR having labels (which attract attention
and give direction), not discarding them.

>
> Regarding showing a default or most-used choice: I'd caution that using
> default values for required fields is potentially dangerous,
> particularly on long forms where the user is tempted to scan quickly
> and
> miss details. Better to leave it blank (which helps call attention to
> the fact that it needs to be answered) and catch an null in validation
> than to have bogus required data submitted. Messy.

Again, it depends. If 99% of your users are from, say, France, why make
all of them scroll through a list of other countries? Sure, you could
put France at the top, but it's still pushing more actions and
decisions at the user instead of the device itself being smarter.

Dan

10 Aug 2004 - 11:03am
Martyn Jones BSc
2004

I started this general query (or hijacked the 'Status on a button') - as
just that. Not in relation to anything I'm currently working on, but just
to see people's views.

Would be interesting to see how long it would take our collective to come up
with an agreeable "when & how to implement drop-down boxes". Not because
drops-downs are so interesting in themselves - but because the debate around
such a simple, frequently used device could be used as a test case when
examining more complex sets of interactions.

Martyn

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of Dan Saffer
Sent: 10 August 2004 16:29
To: Interaction Discussion
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a DROP_DOWN

On Aug 10, 2004, at 10:57 AM, Svoboda, Eric wrote:

> I, for one, find instructions and labels like "please select" or
> "please
> answer" to be insulting. Akin to labeling every door in a building
> "open
> this". Instructions should add value or get out of the way!

Obviously this depends on your users. In most cases, you are probably
more web-savvy than many of them. It might be more akin to labeling
doors "push" or "pull." Your argument below, about people scanning
quickly, would seem to argue FOR having labels (which attract attention
and give direction), not discarding them.

>
> Regarding showing a default or most-used choice: I'd caution that using
> default values for required fields is potentially dangerous,
> particularly on long forms where the user is tempted to scan quickly
> and
> miss details. Better to leave it blank (which helps call attention to
> the fact that it needs to be answered) and catch an null in validation
> than to have bogus required data submitted. Messy.

Again, it depends. If 99% of your users are from, say, France, why make
all of them scroll through a list of other countries? Sure, you could
put France at the top, but it's still pushing more actions and
decisions at the user instead of the device itself being smarter.

Dan

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10 Aug 2004 - 2:13pm
Robert Cornejo
2004

My observation has been that drop-downs tend to be most effective when they're limited to known datasets (i.e. state lists) and use a selected value that is both valid for form submission and representative of the dataset.

Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:

On Aug 10, 2004, at 10:57 AM, Svoboda, Eric wrote:

> I, for one, find instructions and labels like "please select" or
> "please
> answer" to be insulting. Akin to labeling every door in a building
> "open
> this". Instructions should add value or get out of the way!

Obviously this depends on your users. In most cases, you are probably
more web-savvy than many of them. It might be more akin to labeling
doors "push" or "pull." Your argument below, about people scanning
quickly, would seem to argue FOR having labels (which attract attention
and give direction), not discarding them.

>
> Regarding showing a default or most-used choice: I'd caution that using
> default values for required fields is potentially dangerous,
> particularly on long forms where the user is tempted to scan quickly
> and
> miss details. Better to leave it blank (which helps call attention to
> the fact that it needs to be answered) and catch an null in validation
> than to have bogus required data submitted. Messy.

Again, it depends. If 99% of your users are from, say, France, why make
all of them scroll through a list of other countries? Sure, you could
put France at the top, but it's still pushing more actions and
decisions at the user instead of the device itself being smarter.

Dan

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10 Aug 2004 - 9:44am
Narey, Kevin
2004

For those who haven't already seen it.
Bob Baxley's book 'Making the web work' is a reasonable resource to look for
standard usage of web form elements.

http://www.baxleydesign.com/ for a sample chapter....

Annoyed at some things, yet grateful for others was my take on it.

Regards

KN

-----Original Message-----
From: Whitney Quesenbery [mailto:wq at sufficiently.com]
Sent: 10 August 2004 15:23
To: Dan Saffer; 'Interaction Discussion'
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a DROP_DOWN

At 10:22 AM 8/10/2004 -0400, Dan Saffer wrote:
>Sometimes you have to make a trade-off between ....

You might want to see the paper "Should I Use a Drop Down" on choosing form
elements on Caroline Jarrett's Forms That Work

http://www.formsthatwork.com/papers.html

Whitney Quesenbery
Whitney Interactive Design, LLC
w. www.WQusability.com
e. whitneyq at wqusability.com
p. 908-638-5467

UPA - www.usabilityprofessionals.org
STC Usability SIG: www.stcsig.org/usability

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