Dissatisfied with guidelines from the old GUI days that tell us to use drop-downs for long lists and radio buttons for short ones, Donna Maurer has done some thinking herself:
- When users are unfamiliar with the items in a list, radio buttons can assist them by communicating the domain at a glance
- On forms that will be used frequently, radio buttons are far easier and faster because they don't have to be opened and are easier to take in a glance
- When designing for the web screen real estate isn't an issue because of "the magic gadget called a scroll bar."
- Since frequent users become familiar with placement of items on a screen, the spatial placement of radio buttons can help them fill them in quickly
- Experienced users might prefer drop-down list that allow them type the first letter to get to the target item
Donna concludes that it all depends on user context, not on size.
- It's not about size, it's about context - radio buttons or drop-downs
- October 29, 2005
See also: Tips and guidelines (65)