Let’s talk about proper widget usage. It’s imperative to know when to use the right tool for the right job. I wouldn’t use a sledge hammer to hang a painting (unless it was a very large painting.) I wouldn’t use a socket wrench as a pliers. I could use a butter knife to screw something in, but is that the best solution? It’s all about using the right application piece at the right time.

Part of this comes from knowing what the common design pattern is for a particular widget. Another part is knowing how and when to stretch the limits of what is considered to be “common usage.” Any time you do something outside of the user expects is when your usability can start to plummet.

The Naked Anatomy of a Check box

Let’s take a look at a simple example our beloved friend the check box. There are two states to this standard check box that are considered common.

  • If an item is checked it can indicate either something was accomplished.
  • If the box is unchecked you are undoing or indicating you do not want to follow through on an action.

Generally you will find a check box in an unchecked state. Suppose for an instance that we reversed the common usage. A check box when checked now indicates to the user they are NOT SUPPOSE TO DO SOMETHING.  Applying this to the example below we see that because the current state is checked I would un-check to save my selections. Not only is this conter-intuitive but see how hard it was to explain that. You may have to read what I wrote twice to figure out what we are trying to accomplish.

Save Selections:

The same holds true for the most minute details in your application design and ultimately in the widget you choose to use. Going against the common accepted practice has already introduced unneeded complication and confusion.

In future stories we will be looking at a number of controls and how they should be used effectively.  Soon I will have a forum setup (next few weeks) to continue on the discussions outside of the articles written here.