The semantics of checkboxes and null values

8 Jan 2010 - 3:40pm
4 years ago
4 replies
481 reads
DrWex
2006

Yet another of my odd questions, feel free to skip if you don't care...

I am attempting to design a query form to let people find things in a
mixed set of records. For simplicity's sake let's say there are
R1-type records and R2-type records. In the R1-type records there's a
data value that's either Yes or No. In the R2-type records this data
value is undefined or unset. Question: how do I form this query?

If I give people a pair of checkboxes labeled "yes" and "no" then if
they check yes they get only records with yes in that value; likewise
if they check only no, they get records with no in that value.
Checking both gives you records with either value.

This works great for finding R1-type records, but how do I let people
query for the R2-type records?

I can send down a hidden "null" value so that when neither checkbox is
checked I get the R2 records, but then how do people search for "all
R1-type records with EITHER yes or no"?

OK, I can make the null value visible, but that forces people to know
about the structure of my database when they don't care about that.
What they really want to say (I think) is that "I don't want this
field to be part of the search criteria." In the fields that are text
boxes we do that by leaving the box empty but leaving a checkbox empty
means something different.

I've thought about using tri-state boxes but that's awkward as hell
and potentially leads to a lot of checking as there are many such data
fields in this search form.

I can't possibly be the first one to solve this problem - anyone know
a good solution?

TIA,
--Alan

Comments

8 Jan 2010 - 4:06pm
bminihan
2007

Excel seems to provide an elegant solution to this by representing the "not
set" value in the possible options. Something like this might work:

Query by "Checky Field":
[*] Yes
[*] No
[*] Not Set

You might assume "No" also includes "Not Set", if the fields are truly
equivalent in meaning, and your users would prefer not to have to click both
"No" and "Not Set" to fetch both R1 and R2 values.

Or maybe I misunderstood the question =]

Bryan Minihan

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Alan
Wexelblat
Sent: Friday, January 08, 2010 3:40 PM
To: list IXDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] The semantics of checkboxes and null values

Yet another of my odd questions, feel free to skip if you don't care...

I am attempting to design a query form to let people find things in a
mixed set of records. For simplicity's sake let's say there are
R1-type records and R2-type records. In the R1-type records there's a
data value that's either Yes or No. In the R2-type records this data
value is undefined or unset. Question: how do I form this query?

If I give people a pair of checkboxes labeled "yes" and "no" then if
they check yes they get only records with yes in that value; likewise
if they check only no, they get records with no in that value.
Checking both gives you records with either value.

This works great for finding R1-type records, but how do I let people
query for the R2-type records?

I can send down a hidden "null" value so that when neither checkbox is
checked I get the R2 records, but then how do people search for "all
R1-type records with EITHER yes or no"?

OK, I can make the null value visible, but that forces people to know
about the structure of my database when they don't care about that.
What they really want to say (I think) is that "I don't want this
field to be part of the search criteria." In the fields that are text
boxes we do that by leaving the box empty but leaving a checkbox empty
means something different.

I've thought about using tri-state boxes but that's awkward as hell
and potentially leads to a lot of checking as there are many such data
fields in this search form.

I can't possibly be the first one to solve this problem - anyone know
a good solution?

TIA,
--Alan
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11 Jan 2010 - 11:46am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Search For:
o radiobutton R1-type Records
[ ] checkbox Yes value
[ ] checkbox No value
o radiobutton R2-type Records

You might consider adding R2D2-type of the records to mix it up a bit.

Oleh Kovalchuke

On Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 2:40 PM, Alan Wexelblat <awexelblat at gmail.com> wrote:

> Yet another of my odd questions, feel free to skip if you don't care...
>
> I am attempting to design a query form to let people find things in a
> mixed set of records. For simplicity's sake let's say there are
> R1-type records and R2-type records. In the R1-type records there's a
> data value that's either Yes or No. In the R2-type records this data
> value is undefined or unset. Question: how do I form this query?
>
> If I give people a pair of checkboxes labeled "yes" and "no" then if
> they check yes they get only records with yes in that value; likewise
> if they check only no, they get records with no in that value.
> Checking both gives you records with either value.
>
> This works great for finding R1-type records, but how do I let people
> query for the R2-type records?
>
> I can send down a hidden "null" value so that when neither checkbox is
> checked I get the R2 records, but then how do people search for "all
> R1-type records with EITHER yes or no"?
>
> OK, I can make the null value visible, but that forces people to know
> about the structure of my database when they don't care about that.
> What they really want to say (I think) is that "I don't want this
> field to be part of the search criteria." In the fields that are text
> boxes we do that by leaving the box empty but leaving a checkbox empty
> means something different.
>
> I've thought about using tri-state boxes but that's awkward as hell
> and potentially leads to a lot of checking as there are many such data
> fields in this search form.
>
> I can't possibly be the first one to solve this problem - anyone know
> a good solution?
>
> TIA,
> --Alan
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

11 Jan 2010 - 12:09pm
DrWex
2006

On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 11:46 AM, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
> Search For:
> o  radiobutton R1-type Records
>     [ ] checkbox Yes value
>     [ ] checkbox No value
> o  radiobutton R2-type Records

If there were just R1 and R2 records this would be the solution I'd
use. It's simple and relatively elegant. Unfortunately there are four
types of records in the database now and plans to add at least two
more types soon. The combinatorics of letting people say "I want
R1-type and R2-type but not R3 or R4" and all the other possible
combinations gives _me_ a headache. I can't imagine it working for
most of our users.

We may go with some kind of embedded "ignore this" checkbox similar to
Brian's suggestion but I was hoping there would be something else
elegant out there that I just hadn't thought of.

Thanks!
--Alan

11 Jan 2010 - 7:38pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Elementary, Watson. For other types -- extrapolate.

Oleh Kovalchuke

On Jan 11, 2010, at 11:09 AM, Alan Wexelblat <awexelblat at gmail.com>
wrote:

> On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 11:46 AM, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com
> > wrote:
>> Search For:
>> o radiobutton R1-type Records
>> [ ] checkbox Yes value
>> [ ] checkbox No value
>> o radiobutton R2-type Records
>
> If there were just R1 and R2 records this would be the solution I'd
> use. It's simple and relatively elegant. Unfortunately there are four
> types of records in the database now and plans to add at least two
> more types soon. The combinatorics of letting people say "I want
> R1-type and R2-type but not R3 or R4" and all the other possible
> combinations gives _me_ a headache. I can't imagine it working for
> most of our users.
>
> We may go with some kind of embedded "ignore this" checkbox similar to
> Brian's suggestion but I was hoping there would be something else
> elegant out there that I just hadn't thought of.
>
> Thanks!
> --Alan

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