List Box Vs Dropdown

List Box Vs Dropdown

Post by Supr » Thu, 24 Jul 2003 22:24:58



Hello there,
I am having some confusion over the usage of listbox and dropdowns. I
need some help to clarify the situation.
I have had situations when there are 15 items under a single heading
and the user is expected to select only one. My natural choice was to
use a dropdown. But some of my colleagues opined that the moment one
has more then 10 items for a dropdown, one should use a listbox. How
far is this true?

Here's my understanding:
One uses a listbox when the user can:
1. Do multiple selections.
2. Is shown data with further sub-headings.
(eg. - Say for a list of Operating Systems, one can show as:
- Apple -
  Mac OS X
  Mac 9
- Linux -
  Redhat
  Corel Linux
- Microsoft -
  Windows 95
  Windows 2000
  Windows XP)
3. When there are two or more listboxes that are related, i.e. making
a selection in the first list box changes the options availble on the
second listbox and so forth.

Would be great to get response on this so that I can settle the doubt
in my mind. Thanks in advance.
Regards
Supreo

 
 
 

List Box Vs Dropdown

Post by mccroha » Thu, 24 Jul 2003 23:34:37



>Hello there,
>I am having some confusion over the usage of listbox and dropdowns. I
>need some help to clarify the situation.
>I have had situations when there are 15 items under a single heading
>and the user is expected to select only one. My natural choice was to
>use a dropdown. But some of my colleagues opined that the moment one
>has more then 10 items for a dropdown, one should use a listbox. How
>far is this true?

Well, first the standard answer: It Depends.

It's certainly true that a sufficiently long list makes a dropdown
difficult to use. The value of 'sufficiently long' is a matter of
opinion; personally, I draw the line (arbitrarily) at 50, which is
about twice the length of what a dropdown can display without
scrolling on the system I'm working with. Beyond that, I start
looking for a control that will let the user navigate a large
list more easily (like a browsing dialog with sorting & filtering
capabilities). I don't really believe there's a magic number for
that threshold, but picking one makes the standards easier for the
developers to work with, which is its own sort of usability.

I'd question, however, whether using a simple listbox instead is
really improving matters. For instance, a listbox sized to only
allow the user to see 5 items at a time would be harder to use
with a 75-item list than a dropdown would be.

The nature of the contents of the list play a part, as well.
If the contents are well-ordered (for instance, alphabetically
sorted items, in a context where the user knows the precise
name of the thing she's looking for) then even a long list can
be managable. In general, though, giving the user a wide 'field
of view' is important in searching long lists.

--S

 
 
 

List Box Vs Dropdown

Post by Ron Ze » Sat, 26 Jul 2003 14:38:51



> Hello there,
> I am having some confusion over the usage of listbox and dropdowns. I
> need some help to clarify the situation.
> I have had situations when there are 15 items under a single heading
> and the user is expected to select only one...
> Here's my understanding:
> One uses a listbox when the user can:
> 1. Do multiple selections.

Check the platform guidelines.  Generally, you need a strong
indication that multiple selection is allowed.

Quote:> 2. Is shown data with further sub-headings.

Check the platform guidelines.  Usually not recommended.

Quote:> 3. When there are two or more listboxes that are related, i.e. making
> a selection in the first list box changes the options availble on the
> second listbox and so forth.

Check the platform guidelines.

Quote:> Would be great to get response on this so that I can settle the doubt
> in my mind.

It's good to have doubt.  Since you're not being very specific with
your question, I can't give a very specific answer:

Check whatever platform guidelines applicable.
What about using radio buttons?
Generally, you should show as many of the options as possible as
quickly as possible with as little interaction as possible.  Hence,
radio buttons and lists that display all available options result in
faster performance times and lowest error rates.  Drop-downs that show
all options will be slower.  Drop-downs that require scrolling will be
slower still and increase error rates.

Ref: Johnsgard, T.J., Page, S.R. and Wilson, R.D., and Zeno, R.J.,
(1995), A comparison of graphical user interface widgets for various
tasks, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 39th
Annual Meeting.

- Ron Zeno
  ronz at despammed dot com
  http://ronz.blogspot.com

 
 
 

List Box Vs Dropdown

Post by Supr » Wed, 30 Jul 2003 18:43:42




> > Hello there,
> > I am having some confusion over the usage of listbox and dropdowns. I
> > need some help to clarify the situation.
> > I have had situations when there are 15 items under a single heading
> > and the user is expected to select only one...

> > Here's my understanding:
> > One uses a listbox when the user can:
> > 1. Do multiple selections.

> Check the platform guidelines.  Generally, you need a strong
> indication that multiple selection is allowed.

> > 2. Is shown data with further sub-headings.

> Check the platform guidelines.  Usually not recommended.

> > 3. When there are two or more listboxes that are related, i.e. making
> > a selection in the first list box changes the options availble on the
> > second listbox and so forth.

> Check the platform guidelines.

> > Would be great to get response on this so that I can settle the doubt
> > in my mind.

> It's good to have doubt.  Since you're not being very specific with
> your question, I can't give a very specific answer:

> Check whatever platform guidelines applicable.
> What about using radio buttons?
> Generally, you should show as many of the options as possible as
> quickly as possible with as little interaction as possible.  Hence,
> radio buttons and lists that display all available options result in
> faster performance times and lowest error rates.  Drop-downs that show
> all options will be slower.  Drop-downs that require scrolling will be
> slower still and increase error rates.

> Ref: Johnsgard, T.J., Page, S.R. and Wilson, R.D., and Zeno, R.J.,
> (1995), A comparison of graphical user interface widgets for various
> tasks, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 39th
> Annual Meeting.

> - Ron Zeno
>   ronz at despammed dot com
>   http://ronz.blogspot.com

...Generally, you should show as many of the options as possible as
 quickly as possible with as little interaction as possible.  Hence,
 radio buttons and lists that display all available options result in
 faster performance times and lowest error rates...

Radio buttons will certainly speed up interaction, but I guess it's
generally accepted to display a maximum of seven radio buttons for a
single heading. Anything more then that would start making the screen
look too filled and cluttered. Although I have seen instances where
there are about 15 radio buttons listed vertically for data in a table
(much like what we see on the inbox of a web-based mail services -
having a checkbox instead). Again my question will be is such usage
OK? My reaction to looking at a screen with 15 radio buttons wasn't
very jarring, as the information was laid out well in alternating
colors for the rows. Also the data contained in the row extended fully
to fit the screen, which in a way, grabbed more attention then the
radio buttons. I feel such usage is fine if the information can be
presented tactfully to hold user attention.

...Drop-downs that show all options will be slower.  Drop-downs that
require scrolling will be slower still and increase error rates...

Am not sure if the error rate that you are talking about is in terms
of missing out some information due to the scroll or that you
inadvertently make some erroneous selection and go ahead with it. The
later can be a case with radio buttons too! In fact with a dropdown,
the moment a selection is made it will be highlighted, which I believe
directly catches the attention of the user to what he has selected.

regards
Supreo

 
 
 

1. Problems w/dropdown list boxes

I have heard anecdotal evidence that users have trouble with
drop-down list boxes. However, I've only heard these complaints
from a small number of sources.  So I was wondering if anyone has
done any research into the usability of these list boxes.
Or, failing that, I wonder if others have also heard anecdotal
evidence that these drop-down lists cause problems.

Some anecdotes I've heard:
*  At times, a user drops down the list to use it, but the user
   does not close the list; then there are problems because the
   list covers other controls.  (Especially problematic if the
   list covers OK and/or Cancel.)

*  From software trainers, I've heard the simple observation that
   many users simply have trouble using drop-down lists.  
   Especially when the list has so many items that it also has a
   scroll bar.  (I'll try to follow up and get the trainers to
   be more specific about just what type of problems occur.)

Anyone else know of any research, or even anecdotes, supporting
the claim that users have a hard time with drop-down lists?
- Dave

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