Context: The user should fill in information on a Form
(or change settings via a Control Panel),
and some of the data fields can be given reasonable default values.
This can happen within many different subpatterns: Choice
from a Small Set, Choice from
a Large Set, Sliding Scale, Forgiving
Text Entry, etc.
A PC login screen with the last user's name still in the "User name:" field
A phone menu which, if you don't press any number, puts you through to
a human operator who can help you
Refrigerator controls which give you a "medium coldness" setting by default
Problem: How does the artifact indicate what kind
of information should be supplied?
Solution: Supply reasonable default values for the
fields in question. Show these defaults to the user, so that
they know they aren't required to fill them in. Indicate clearly
that the value can be changed by the user, if they so desire.
Filling out forms is not inherently a fun activity; don't prolong the agony
by making the user do unnecessary work.
The user may have no clue what kind of value to supply, from the given
The user may be perfectly happy with the default behavior or values, with
no desire to change it; but they may want to know what the default values
"Correct" values for some unfilled fields may be difficult or impossible
for the artifact itself to figure out.
Resulting Context: You need to choose the correct
default value. The actual value you use will depend entirely upon
the particulars of the artifact, of course, but keep in mind such principles
as minimal work (pick a default value that most of your users will
be OK with), adaptability (change a default value to be consistent
with information the user has already supplied), and representativeness
(make it a good example of "correct" input).
Comments to: email@example.com
Last modified May 17, 1999
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell. All rights reserved.