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Subject:
From:
Joe Clark <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Joe Clark <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:52:38 -0500
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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,
<http://www.electricseed.com/joeclark/jobsites.html>.)

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:
<http://www.imiward.com/cgi-local/pjward/Catalogue.cgi>, 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]
           <http://www.joeclark.uni.cc> (updated & upblogged 2000.02.09)

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