Actions for Multiple Objects
Context: The artifact contains multiple real or virtual
objects, such as files, or CDs, or car windows. There are actions
to be performed on those objects, and users are likely to want to perform
actions on two or more objects at one time.
Moving a set of graphic objects on a WYSIWYG editor
Copying a batch of files from one place to another
Locking all four car doors from the driver's seat
Problem: How can the artifact make repetitive tasks
easier for the user?
Solution: Allow the action to be performed "in parallel"
across a set of user-selected objects. Make it easy to put that
collection together. Multiple-selection is the typical way to do
it today in computer-based artifacts: you choose objects by shift-clicking
on them or lassoing them, for instance, and then you perform the action
(Localized Object Actions).
You could also provide a separate facility for performing an action on
all instances of a certain kind of object, such as a "Clear All" button
on a drawing program.
People aren't good at repetitive tasks; machines are.
Users don't want to spend time performing the same action to every single
It might also be error-prone to do this, if the action is complex or requires
Different objects may have different sets of actions.
Putting together a collection of objects may take time and mental effort.
What if the user has a set of multiple objects that don't share the
same actions? You could disable the actions that aren't relevant
to all of them (Disabled Irrelevant
Things), but the user may not understand why they're disabled.
A crystal-clear model of the object types and their available actions would
help the user avoid this situation in the first place. Start there.
Resulting Context: If the action is difficult or
complex, you might want to treat the set of objects to be acted upon as
a form of Editable Collection; but
it would be overkill for really simple actions. In short, don't make
the user spend more effort putting together the collection of multiple
objects than they would have spent performing the action on each individual
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified May 17, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell. All rights reserved.