Choice from a Large Set

Examples: Context:  The artifact shows, or allows the user to set, a value which is one out of a large set of possible values (more than 10).  This often happens on Forms and Control Panels, and sometimes on Status Displays; it is very similar to Choice from a Small Set., and shares much of its context with Sliding Scale.

Problem:  How should the artifact indicate what kind of information should be supplied?


Solution:  Clearly show the selected value up front; organize the set of possible values, but hide them nearby if they take up too much space.  Put them on a separate working surface, for instance, or in a scrolled area or combo box in a GUI environment, where they are only a single gesture away. Organize them in the way most appropriate to how the user will be searching -- alphabetically if looking for names, numerically for a font size, most-often or most-recently used for a document to edit, etc. Allow a user who knows exactly what they want to directly enter the choice, as by typing, rather than by laboriously searching it out.

Resulting Context:  Good Defaults may let the user look at the default value, judge it to be OK, and move on without even bothering to set the value.  If the choices are pictorial, or are cryptic in some other way, Short Description may be needed to describe the choices further.

Notes:  Scrolled combo boxes are really only necessary if the dropdown list is going to run off the edge of the screen -- it's easy to miss the choices beyond the visible area, and it's awkward for many people to drop down the list, then move to the scroll bar (or buttons), then scroll up, then down, etc. It takes the bad features of scrolled lists and makes them worse, first by making you show the list and then by shrinking the scrollbar.

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Last modified May 17, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell.  All rights reserved.