Which Web widget should I use?
Knowing which Web widget is appropriate for every circumstance depends on several factors including:
- User characteristics
David Unsworth of Saga Services Ltd (see Resources) discovered that a user's age should be a consideration when selecting Web widgets. "I can tell you one result from the many studies I have conducted with dropdowns is that mature adults (over 50) rarely use them, and their navigation behavior is dominated by the use of visible links," says Unsworth.
Content will also impact your selection of Web widgets. If users can select from a set of known values, for instance, as the developer, you'll want to present those options up-front in the form of radio buttons, checkboxes, dropdowns, or list boxes, rather than leave users guessing what is acceptable with an open-ended text box.
Finally, you should consider technology considerations like target platforms, browser types and versions, screen resolutions, and access speeds. Peter Picone, an independent usability expert, (see Resources) suggests considering where Web widgets are placed at different screen resolutions. List boxes and dropdowns placed too close to the fold may obscure a user's ability to see list items.
Spending time up-front understanding users, content, and technology will help ensure that you use Web widgets wisely. Additional information and guidelines are discussed below.