Desktop application, enabling or disabling the OK button on error?

7 May 2007 - 2:04pm
7 years ago
2 replies
2733 reads
sebmalo
2005

Hello everyone,

I am debating whether or not I should disabled the OK button on a dialog box until the fields that need to be filled are "error free". Let's assume I have two fields on a dialog box: Name and Position. On dialog open, the name is empty and the position is defaulted to a predetermined value (which is editable). Let's assume I clearly identified both fields as mandatory. Do I leave the OK disabled until a name is entered or do I enable it and provide an error message if it is selected with no name entered? I personaly prefer to disable the OK button thus preventing an error from happening but I have "strong opponents" that prefer to be prompted with an error rather than trying to figure out why the OK is disabled.

What do you think ?

seb

------------------------

Sébastien Malo

www.cae.com

Comments

7 May 2007 - 4:55pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: Sebastien Malo <malo at cae.com>
>
>Do I leave the OK disabled until a name is entered or do I enable it
>and provide an error message if it is selected with no name entered?
>I personaly prefer to disable the OK button thus preventing an error
>from happening but I have "strong opponents" that prefer to be
>prompted with an error rather than trying to figure out why the OK
>is disabled.

Would the presentation of an alert provide any actual value to the user? If all it is doing is saying "Hey, idiot, you left the Name blank!", then maybe less in-your-face methods can be used.

With a dialog as simple as you describe -- two fields, neither may be empty -- users are not going to have to work hard to figure out what's up with a disabled button. If there were a half-dozen fields, things might be different.

Other mechanisms might reduce others' qualms while not going all the way to making the user figure out what's up. You might put up bubble help attached to the bad field(s) when the OK is clicked -- this will give the user gentler feedback and he won't have to dismiss the alert to fix things. You might also put cueing text in the fields -- gray (or maybe red) text saying "Enter a Name here -- when the user hasn't filled in his own text, and then only enable OK when it's really legal.

-- Jim

7 May 2007 - 4:57pm
Donna Maurer
2003

I recently designed and supervised the building of a browser-based
interface framework that would allow designers to assemble an interface
with components and developers to code an interface by plugging together
component code. This framework would be used for hundreds of individual
screens.

My solution for this situation was to always have buttons enabled. My
rationale went like this:
- it must be used consistently across the system - users should not have
to worry about why some buttons work and some don't
- it is probably better for usability reasons to disable it - it helps
users avoid error and they don't get hit with an error message if they
use the button
- I couldn't always guarantee that designers would be able to make it
clear exactly what needed to be done to get it to work (there may be
some complicated business rules), so users could be left in the dark
about what they had to do (an error message is easier because it can
explain the business rules)
- every button would need javascript to be written by the developer,
outside of the interface framework, which increased work and risked
incompatibility with the framework (there was some technical complexity
I won't go into)

So if it were a simple form on a few pages and you could explain what
the user needs to do, disable it....

Donna

Sebastien Malo wrote:
> Hello everyone,
>
> I am debating whether or not I should disabled the OK button on a dialog box until the fields that need to be filled are "error free". Let's assume I have two fields on a dialog box: Name and Position. On dialog open, the name is empty and the position is defaulted to a predetermined value (which is editable). Let's assume I clearly identified both fields as mandatory. Do I leave the OK disabled until a name is entered or do I enable it and provide an error message if it is selected with no name entered? I personaly prefer to disable the OK button thus preventing an error from happening but I have "strong opponents" that prefer to be prompted with an error rather than trying to figure out why the OK is disabled.
>
> What do you think ?
>
> seb
>
>

--
Donna Maurer
Maadmob Interaction Design
e: donna at maadmob.net
web: http://maadmob.net/maadmob_id/
book: http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

Syndicate content Get the feed