Choosing Forms Controls
Form controls are fairly self-explanatory, but the author explains them anyway:
- A drop-down box enables the user to choose among a number choices
- Radio buttons do the same. They consume more screen space, but allow you to provide more text with each option
- Checkboxes enable the user to select all that apply, rather than just one
- A scrolling list is available to do the same as checkboxes, but it's unusual
- A text field allows the user to type in anything. A larger text area accommodates long and multi-line input
A text field is often easier to use than a select object, but it also means that the user has the ability to mistype an answer. Examples are given of sites that will use fuzzy matching - such that if the user enters "Melborn, Australia" the search will return hotels in Melbourne (with an "e")
The author suggests that a select object is better when there are more than four options to choose from - but this is arbitrary. She suggests that radio buttons are better if the user needs to see all of their options at a glance to make a choice among them.
A random bad example: a single select object that presents a mixed list of states for all countries (America, Canada, Mexico, and Australia)
Users still need to be prompted when an answer will accept multiple options. "Check all that apply" is straightforward, but there are instances in which you can phrase the question to suggest multiple options can be selected.
She mentions "specialist controls" such as calendar widgets for choosing a date, or a map with clickable regions to choose a location (provided there are a small number of regions)
Editorial: The author really did a bad job of this - it merits a more detailed and thorough consideration.