Friday, November 10, 2006

Dumb or Brilliant?---
This one has me pondering. We have a user interface where the user can enter IP addresses. If the user wishes to enter multiple IP addresses, the instruction is to separate them with a comma. The UI displays the addresses as the user has entered them. Very similar to how you see multiple email address in the To field of an email. No problem.

On a new interface, when the user types a comma, the display treats it the way it would a carriage return, putting the new IP address on the next line. Huh! Easier to read and see what addresses have been added; different user experience. It raises two questions I find interesting:
  • Should the UI display what the user typed or what the user decided? Using the comma to tell the computer, "This is a new IP address" is easy for the input phase, but should it preclude the computer from acknowledging that input in a way that is easier to process visually for the user.
  • To what degree should innovation be constrained by convention (or consistency)?

No answers today. I'm enjoying the questions too much :-)

1 comment:

Stephen said...

My first thought is that the UI should accept the Enter key to move to the new line, not the comma. Even a small piece of UA text right above the entry box such as "Press Enter to start a new line" might be helpful. This is a known interaction/control on forms both on the Web and in desktop applications. In any case, it doesn't change the expectation that you're typing in IP addresses and wouldn't be "involved with" the comma. (Using the Enter key like this, instead of having it invoke the default, main button on the page, does mean I'd have to use the mouse to click into another field or click the main button (I'm assuming there's some sort of Submit/Cancel pair). But the convenience of allowing me a readable screen (using the Enter key) seems to render the extra click OK. Just some thoughts!