Input Controls in User Interfaces
Input Controls in User Interfaces
Input Controls are an integral part in the forms that software applications use for getting information from the user. They are the interactive part of the user interface. They allow a user to perform many functions like typing text, selecting items from a list, uploading or downloading files, and visiting other web pages. These functions are provided by input controls such as text boxes, hyperlinks, drop down lists, radio buttons, and others.
The spin control box is a text box with a spin control feature that allows the user to select numerical values. This is useful when a particular number within a range is required from the user. It helps in maintaining data integrity. For example, if the form requires the user’sage, it is useful to keep a spin control for a range of numbers. This ensures that the age will be stored as a numerical value without decimals in the database. It also keeps matters simple. If there was a free text box, users might enter age values like 17.5, negative numbers, or very high or low numbers, which can create data problems. Extremely high and low numbers might not be valid for the application either. For example, if it is a form for buying insurance online, the validation on the age input can be a range and this can be defined by the spin control.
Radio buttons allow a user to select only one of many available options. It is useful when there are less than 7 options, and the user has to select only one of them and if it is mandatory for them to select one. It is a good practice to keep the default option selected. Radio buttons take up a lot of screen space so they should be used judiciously. If the user has to select only one option, it is best to have radio buttons; else, the user might end up selecting none or more than one option, which can lead to data integrity issues (Patternry, n.d.).
Checkboxes are used when there are many choices and the user can select one or more. Checkboxes are used when choices are mutually exclusive. It is useful as all choices are visible all the time. It is easy to use and intuitive (“Windows,” n.d.). If it is not used and if there are many choices and the user is asked to type them, there is a possibility of errors. Users might not spell the words properly or write illegible choices. This can lead to data integrity issues and the database table will end up having inaccurate data. Checkboxes lead to lesser typing; and hence, reduced errors.
A Text box can be used when the input cannot be guessed or is not from a list of choices. It is useful as it is a flexible control. Information that cannot be set to a default value and cannot be left blank should be derived using a Text box. In a form, the data in a text box can be validated by restricting input. For example, in a text box for a name, it can be made to accept only alphabets. If it is a textbox that cannot be left blank, then it can be set to have mandatory input. It can be used to get textual data, numeric data, or formatted data. If the input data is numeric, the text box can be validated to accept only numbers. This will help in maintaining data integrity. If the user has to enter some data that is mandatory, the input mask in a text box can be set such that blank values are not allowed. If the user does not enter the data, he or she will not be allowed to proceed. This prevents a data integrity error of blank data being entered in the database.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Restricting User Interfaces
One of the advantages of restricting user interfaces is that it makes it easy for users to input data. For example a set of radio buttons will have predefined values and the user has to select one of them, reducing chances of data input error. It is also possible for users to create weak passwords or click on untrustworthy links that can lead to a security breach. However, these actions can be curtailed if user interfaces are restrictive (Mac Developer Library, 2014). For example, the password input box can have rules regarding password creation. Users can be given specific locations to upload/download files in the computer/ server. Validation of data can give users immediate feedback about their input, ensuring that correct information is entered in the input controls.
On the other hand, one of their disadvantages is that users do not like to follow rules. They get exasperated at having to enter data in a certain manner. As such, input controls need to be selected judiciously. If there are too many options for a data point, using a check box control is not a smart option, as it will take too much screen space. If there are too many restrictions on user input or too many input controls on the web page, the form will also take a longer time to respond.
Graphical Representation of a Web-based Input Form
Hotel Reservation Form
Mac Developer Library (2014, February 11). Designing Secure User Interfaces.
Retrieved from https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/Security/
Patternry. (n.d.). Input controls. Retrieved from http://patternry.com/p=input-controls/
Windows. (n.d.). Checkboxes. Retrieved from http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-