Radio buttons - null option

17 Jun 2009 - 5:53am
5 years ago
5 replies
1727 reads
Emely Serruys
2009

Hi,

I am wondering if it is (already?) acceptable to omit the explicit
null option in a radio button control?
I have used radiobuttons for a non-required control. To apply the
null option the user would have to 'unselect' the one selected
radio button (this to save place by not adding a fourth radio button
or to not have to use a drop down control).
I suppose it is kind of an unusual behavior but it seems to me that
is is learnable, and I have seen it in product design. Has this kind
of behavior been introduced in forms before?

Thanks for your opinions,
Emely

Comments

17 Jun 2009 - 6:20am
Yohan Creemers
2008

Hi Emely,

I would advise to sacrifice space and add the fourth radio button with a
clear label explaining the meaning of the null option.
Unselecting a radio button may be learnable, but due to conventions it is
not intuitive.

In products it is often possible to unselect by pushing one of the
unselected buttons half way. I doubt this behavior is by (interaction)
design. It might be just a side effect of the mechanism.

- Yohan.

17 Jun 2009 - 7:54am
Adam Lerner
2009

Emely -

While I agree with Yohan that a "clear" button might be the easiest
for a user to adjust quickly, I think there are a couple other
considerations. The system I am re-designing now has severe screen
real-estate restrictions and a user base who will be interacting with
it literally hundreds of times per day. Because of these factors, our
team has opted to use radio buttons in the non-standard way you
describe.

Since no fields required and there are liability factors for our
company, our radio buttons begin in the 'null' state. Options can
be selected and de-selected much like check boxes.

Of course, we haven't done our usability testing yet, so we could
learn that our assumptions are flat-out wrong, but so far our small
sample set of users has not noticed that this is even unusual
behavior.

So, depending on what your application is and the transience of your
user-base you might be fine. (But I think testing is the way to
go...)

- Adam

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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18 Jun 2009 - 12:56am
Alexandru Ionescu
2009

Emely,

What you are suggesting is counterintuitive. Of course it can be
learned, but at what cost?

Look at it the other way around: after learning/using your
application, people might try to replicate the same button behavior
with a classic array of radio buttons. Won't that be a bit
frustrating?

Best of luck,
Alex

Alex

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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21 Jun 2009 - 11:06pm
jabbett
2008

Personal crusade of mine, actually. You didn't explicitly say you're
working on a web application, but assuming you are, the W3C provides these
instructions...

http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/interact/forms.html#radio

Radio buttons are like checkboxes except that when several share the
same control
name <http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/interact/forms.html#control-name>, they
are mutually exclusive: when one is switched "on", all others with the same
name are switched "off". The
INPUT<http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/interact/forms.html#edef-INPUT>element
is used to create a radio button control.If
no radio button in a set sharing the same control name is initially "on",
user agent behavior for choosing which control is initially "on" is
undefined. *Note.* Since existing implementations handle this case
differently, the current specification differs from RFC 1866
([RFC1866]<http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/references.html#ref-RFC1866>section
8.1.2.4), which states:

At all times, exactly one of the radio buttons in a set is checked. If none
of the <INPUT> elements of a set of radio buttons specifies 'CHECKED', then
the user agent must check the first radio button of the set initially.

Since user agent behavior differs, authors should ensure that in each set of
radio buttons that one is initially "on".

If you are hard up for screen real-estate, you could always use a drop-down
selector, but I can't really say without knowing more about your situation.

Best,
Jon

On Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 6:56 PM, Alexandru Ionescu <coercitiv at gmail.com>wrote:

> Emely,
>
> What you are suggesting is counterintuitive. Of course it can be
> learned, but at what cost?
>
> Look at it the other way around: after learning/using your
> application, people might try to replicate the same button behavior
> with a classic array of radio buttons. Won't that be a bit
> frustrating?
>
> Best of luck,
> Alex
>
> Alex
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=42900
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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21 Jun 2009 - 4:26pm
Diana Wynne
2008

Why does it have to be a radio button? Seems like you're describing a
dropdown menu with no selection to start. This is a very common state
on forms for optional elements.

As a voice against pre-selection, I recently had a problem making a
donation to a UN Foundation site. I clicked through from an e-mail
hoping to make a $25 contribution. They offered radio buttons for $10,
$35, $50, $100 and up, plus other. $50 was preseleected.

I took the bait upping the ante and clicked $35 and Donate. Except
with no confirmation message offered, I got a "thank you for your $50
donation." My click hadn't registered, and $50 was charged, which I am
now disputing with a bad taste in my mouth.

Users should have to make a choice unless there's a clear default,
like on a travel site where you are almost always buying 1 adult
ticket or 1 hotel room.

Diana

On Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 8:53 PM, Emely Serruys<emely.serruys at higroup.com> wrote:
> Hi,
>
> I am wondering if it is (already?) acceptable to omit the explicit
> null option in a radio button control?
> I have used radiobuttons for a non-required control. To apply the
> null option the user would have to 'unselect' the one selected
> radio button (this to save place by not adding a fourth radio button
> or to not have to use a drop down control).
> I suppose it is kind of an unusual behavior but it seems to me that
> is is learnable, and I have seen it in product design. Has this kind
> of behavior been introduced in forms before?
>
> Thanks for your opinions,
> Emely
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

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