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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Joe Clark <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:52:38 -0500
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Joe Clark <[log in to unmask]>
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>I have used drop down boxes and find they can be quite useful... (puts all
>your choices on one screen without scrolling)
>we also give the user a choice of a numerical listing, alphabetical listing
>and a topical listing...
>(Users indicated that they liked it)

Reasons not to use them at all:

1. Options are hidden. Options should not be hidden, according to
many people. (The use of "hidden information spaces"-- submenus that
appear only when you mouseover a button-- is contentious. It works in
many cases but is nonobvious and requires Java. See Aquent discussion
in my analysis of job-site usability,

2. There is a temptation to load up the menu with too many options.
Common example: U.S. state names. (A bad idea anyway-- what if your
address does not fit that format? Alberta and Queensland aren't U.S.
states.) You also see this with country names, which guarantees you
~150 entries. Worst example I ever saw:
<>, whose
search-for-jobs feature insists that you select your specialty from a
menu of over 200 options (in mixed case, many of which also have
mysterious codes).

3. Current UIs for scrolling lists are poor: They insist you scroll.
Windows does this a bit better, actually, since the list stays up
after one click; otherwise you have to hold the mouse down, which is
fatiguing. Many newbies do not know how to scroll beyond the bottom
of the screen in such a listing. Lynx can optionally number the
entries in a pull-down menu; why can't IE and Explorer? (Indeed, a
member of the Microsoft accessibility team dismissed numbering links
as trivial, as though an easy-to-program feature were worthless.)

4. They're too "neato" in programmer terms. In other words,
programmers think they're highly efficient and kewel. If anything
were the antithesis of usability, that is.

           Joe Clark
           [log in to unmask]
           <> (updated & upblogged 2000.02.09)