great question - I wish more posts were as clearly stated as this. Here's
The most significant tradeoff here is the existence of a selection model.
This goes beyond what you mention about separate pieces of UI. The advantage
of multiple buttons per object is the lack of a selection model - the user
never has to specify the object to apply the command to - it's always
implied. Dealing with selection is difficult, as witnessed by the difficulty
of file management in GUIs: you can't hit file.rename until you have first
selected a specific file. As you point out, multiple commands per object
does force clutter, especially if there are more than 3 or 4 commands for
each object, but it does require a lot less work for the user. This kind of
well contained clutter seems to annoy designers more than users.
Once you get beyond 3 or 4 commands, things get unwieldy. I've seen
dropdowns next to items that list the commands that can be applied to it -
it feels awful. I think there is a breaking point - if the users tasks are
so complex that they need more than 3 commands, it's worth it for them to
learn some model of selection. If the tasks are simple enough (and we should
strive for simple pages), then a couple of commands per object is tolerable.
From: Kayla Block [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, November 05, 1999 4:20 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Multiple Controls?
I have tended to think that having a list of items with the same button
next to each item is not good design. Yet this seems to be ubiquitous.
(For example, almost every online address book has buttons next to every
entry for "delete" and buttons next to every entry for "edit").
I'd be interested in both research and opinions regarding advantages and
disadvantages to having one set of controls for an entire list of items
vs. having duplicated controls next to each list item.
Advantages of multiple buttons next to each item:
1) Item is obviously spatially related to the controls. Don't have to
track back and forth between 2 separate pieces of UI.
2) Mouse clicks to use those buttons on item are closer to the item
Disadvantages of multiple buttons:
2) visual confusion
3) not as aesthetically appealing
Additional thoughts are
Manager, Documentation and User Interface