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Why drop-down lists are bad for the user experience.

An industry standard that makes no sense at all.

Nils Sköld
May 10, 2013 · 4 min read

1. Replace drop-down menues with radio buttons

Instead of hiding the options for the user behind a click, it should be laid out in plain sight. The user can then see what options she has and make an informed decision. Be sure to design the radio buttons so that it’s clear than only one can be selected.

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2. Two options should be a switch

If there are only two options, then a drop-down should be replaced with a switch, and the most common option should be prefilled. A great example of this is chosing gender in a sign-up form. With a drop down, everyone has to do 2 click: selecting the menu and then selecting the choice. In a switch, where female is pre-selected (51% of the population), then only 49% of the users have to do 1 click. That’s a HUGE difference. Here is an example of the bad way, from Yahoo.com:

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3. Many options should be a auto-complete field

It is widely accepted that the maximum number of items in a drop-down list should be around 15 items (some say 12, others say 16). If it’s more than that it easy gets confusing and a hard choice to make for the user. Scanning through a long list of items puts a lot of choice in the hands of the user. We should always strive towards taking as many options away from the user as possible. The less they have to think because we do the thinking in the background, the better.

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Apegroup — Behind the Screens

Thoughts, learnings and opinions from a digital product…

Nils Sköld

Written by

Design Lead at Amuse. I try to be funny when I write and love hyperboles. http://nilsskold.se

Apegroup — Behind the Screens

Thoughts, learnings and opinions from a digital product studio in Sweden who deliver world-class design, technology and communication.

Nils Sköld

Written by

Design Lead at Amuse. I try to be funny when I write and love hyperboles. http://nilsskold.se

Apegroup — Behind the Screens

Thoughts, learnings and opinions from a digital product studio in Sweden who deliver world-class design, technology and communication.

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