Structured Text Entry

Examples: Context:  The user should enter information, as on a Form, but that information must be in a very specific format; Forgiving Text Entry is not a viable option.

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


Solution:  Rather than letting a user enter information into a blank and featureless text field, put structure into that text field.  Divide it into multiple fields with different relative sizes, for instance, or superimpose a faint visual design on it (like dividers or decimal points).  Be careful not to constrict the input so much that it makes things too complicated, or so that it no longer fits the possible input values that users may need to give it!  Do user testing as needed to judge whether or not it's too annoying.

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; it may also help suggest what kind of input is allowed.  Also, if the Structured Text Entry follows a culturally familiar pattern -- such as a column of numbers lined up by their decimal point, with currency signs nearby -- the user might get enough contextual clues from it to know what has to be provided, with little or no explanatory comments.

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Last modified May 17, 1999

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