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Mathijs Panhuijsen <[log in to unmask]>
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Mathijs Panhuijsen <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 17 Apr 2008 10:59:22 +0200
text/plain (71 lines)
Hello all,

I wonder if anyone can give their opinion on an interaction question I

The GUI I work on should have a search interface with a number of
advanced search options. 
For both technical and usability reasons, these options should be
expandable/collapsible, even though we do have space to show all options
at the same time.

I now have two competing designs for this.

Design 1: modeled after the Search Companion interface in MS Windows
Explorer and the Find interface in MS Word.

Advanced search options are displayed as clickable strings with an
arrowhead next to them, pointing right.
Clicking an item expands it. This means that the selection interface (a
dropdown, say, or radiobuttons) appears below it, pushing the other
options down, and the arrowhead now points down.
Users can make a selection and collapse the option again. 
IMPORTANT: Collapsing the option does NOT deselect the value the user

This creates the problem that there may be options selected that are not
displayed, that is, the user may not see which search parameters she is
Windows Explorer does not solve this problem at all, but MS Word
displays the values of selected options as read-only text under the
basic search box.
We could go for the MS Word solution, but it would take valuable real
estate space.

Design 2: modeled after another interface we made ourselves.

Advanced search options are displayed as strings with an empty checkbox
to their left.
Selecting the checkbox expands the item. This means that the selection
interface (a dropdown, say, or radiobuttons) appears below it, pushing
the other options down, and the checkbox is shown as selected.
Users can make a selection, but they cannot collapse the option, except
by deselecting the checkbox (which means their selected option won't be

My main problem with this interface is that it is fairly
counterintuitive and technical.
My target audience are people with fairly limited technical skills
(read: familiar with MS Office and surfing the internet).
The checkboxes also behave in a somewhat unusual way: they select and
expand (or deselect and collapse) at the same time. You wouldn't
typically expect checkboxes to behave that way, I think.

Can you tell me which of these 2 designs you prefer, and why?

Kind regards,

Mathijs Panhuijsen

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