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Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell

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CONTROL CHOICE

The following charts describe controls and patterns for the kinds of information you might ask from the user, such as numbers and choices from lists. It's not a complete set by any means. In fact, you can probably come up with plenty of others. But the types shown here are common, and the listed controls are among your best choices for clarity and usability.

Consider these factors when choosing among the possible controls for a given information type:

Available space

Some controls take up lots of screen real estate; others are smaller, but may be harder to use than larger ones. Short forms on web pages might be able to spend that screen space on radio buttons or illustrated lists, whereas complex applications may need to pack as much content as possible into small spaces. Toolbars and table-style Property Sheets are especially constraining, since they generally allow for only one text line of height, and often not much width either.

User sophistication with respect to general computer usage

Text fields would be familiar to almost all users of anything you'd design, but not everyone would be comfortable using a double-thumbed slider. For that matter, many occasional computer users don't know how to handle a multiple-selection list-box, either.

User sophistication with respect to domain knowledge

A text field might be fine if your users know that, say, only the numbers 1–10 and 20–30 are valid. Beginners will stumble, but if they're a very small part of your user base (and ...

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