Displaying Status on a Button

9 Aug 2004 - 1:39pm
10 years ago
3 replies
431 reads
Jon-Eric Steinbomer
2003

A developer colleague and I have been discussing at length what I
consider to be a less than ideal interaction.It’s regarding the display
of status information on a button and I’m looking for some input on what
exactly is wrong with the paradigm (or if I’m wrong for thinking it to
be flawed).

Some background on the design: within a properties dialogue we present a
text entry field containing a numerical value drawn from a normal
distribution. To the right of the text field is a graphical button
displaying a normal distribution curve. The user can click on this
button and specify that the value (within the text field) be drawn from
a selection of different kinds of distributions: Gaussian, triangular,
etc. The user selects one of these distributions and its parameters,
hits OK and returns to the properties dialogue where the button now
displays an image of a triangular or Gaussian curve, etc.

The reasoning behind showing the distribution on the button is that the
user can open the properties dialogue and see at a glance the type of
distribution the numerical value is being drawn from without needing to
click on the button and see the distribution settings. I have problems
with displaying the current status of the value on the actual button
that is used to change the status but I can’t really put my finger on
why. Any thoughts?

Thanks
Jon-Eric

Comments

9 Aug 2004 - 1:58pm
Jim McCusker
2004

Jon-Eric Steinbomer wrote:

> The reasoning behind showing the distribution on the button is that
> the user can open the properties dialogue and see at a glance the type
> of distribution the numerical value is being drawn from without
> needing to click on the button and see the distribution settings. I
> have problems with displaying the current status of the value on the
> actual button that is used to change the status but I can’t really put
> my finger on why. Any thoughts?

You can probably use a pull-down button (like MS Office uses for text
color, etc) to select from a list, if it's a simple choice list. If
there's additional info needed, maybe the choice would bring up the
dialog? Something like:

[_/\_] (press button)-> [_-_] (selection)-> options dialog
-------------------
|_-_ Gaussian... |
|/\ Triangular...|
-------------------

Jim

9 Aug 2004 - 2:22pm
Svoboda, Eric
2004

I have to agree with Jim that a pull-down (or similar element) would be
standard here. Of course, if you have just 3-4 selections, a radio
button group would be nice.

I think you feel uneasy because your current design in non-standard.
Buttons generally don't show status just as status displays generally
aren't controls. Elements like the pull-down and radio button group
offer both status display and control.

Could you maybe share a screen shot with us?

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of Jim McCusker
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:58 PM
Cc: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a Button

Jon-Eric Steinbomer wrote:

> The reasoning behind showing the distribution on the button is that
> the user can open the properties dialogue and see at a glance the type

> of distribution the numerical value is being drawn from without
> needing to click on the button and see the distribution settings. I
> have problems with displaying the current status of the value on the
> actual button that is used to change the status but I can't really put

> my finger on why. Any thoughts?

You can probably use a pull-down button (like MS Office uses for text
color, etc) to select from a list, if it's a simple choice list. If
there's additional info needed, maybe the choice would bring up the
dialog? Something like:

[_/\_] (press button)-> [_-_] (selection)-> options dialog
-------------------
|_-_ Gaussian... |
|/\ Triangular...|
-------------------

Jim
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9 Aug 2004 - 2:50pm
Peter Bagnall
2003

If I understand what you're getting at correctly then the problem is
that it's unclear whether the button shows what the state is now, or
what the state will be after it's clicked. That makes it ambiguous. I
suspect that's what's bugging you - it's a nasty ambiguity to have in
an interface. Eric is absolutely correct to say that is a button is
non-standard solution to this problem, and that's a major contributing
factor since buttons generally do what is shown on the button - not the
opposite (which it would if it were to show it's current state since
then clicking it would cause it to leave that state).

A drop down solves this since their behaviour is consistently
understood - they do show the current state. Other solutions would
require that you can see all the options at once, and have a way of
highlighting the one that's selected - say like the mutually exclusive
button groups that MacOS now uses in the finder to select between
icons, list and column modes. That might be a better solution that more
space consuming radio buttons and labels, and more direct than a drop
down (you get to see all the options without having to click), while
still avoiding the conflict you get with buttons.

Hope that helps.
--Pete

On 9 Aug 2004, at 20:22, Svoboda, Eric wrote:

> I have to agree with Jim that a pull-down (or similar element) would be
> standard here. Of course, if you have just 3-4 selections, a radio
> button group would be nice.
>
> I think you feel uneasy because your current design in non-standard.
> Buttons generally don't show status just as status displays generally
> aren't controls. Elements like the pull-down and radio button group
> offer both status display and control.
>
> Could you maybe share a screen shot with us?
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-
> bounces at lists.interactiondesign
> ers.com] On Behalf Of Jim McCusker
> Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:58 PM
> Cc: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Displaying Status on a Button
>
> Jon-Eric Steinbomer wrote:
>
>> The reasoning behind showing the distribution on the button is that
>> the user can open the properties dialogue and see at a glance the type
>
>> of distribution the numerical value is being drawn from without
>> needing to click on the button and see the distribution settings. I
>> have problems with displaying the current status of the value on the
>> actual button that is used to change the status but I can't really put
>
>> my finger on why. Any thoughts?
>
> You can probably use a pull-down button (like MS Office uses for text
> color, etc) to select from a list, if it's a simple choice list. If
> there's additional info needed, maybe the choice would bring up the
> dialog? Something like:
>
> [_/\_] (press button)-> [_-_] (selection)-> options
> dialog
> -------------------
> |_-_ Gaussian... |
> |/\ Triangular...|
> -------------------
>
> Jim
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Peter Bagnall - http://people.surfaceeffect.com/pete/

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