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In general, I try to limit use of dropdowns to lists of no more than ~15 or so options. For larger lists with options the user is familiar with, I tend to favor autocomplete text inputs. However, I've come across a situation where I need to allow the user to select from a list of ~50 or more options with which he/she is not very familiar.

Because they are not familiar with the options, an autocomplete would leave the user confused and frustrated as they try in vain to guess the right spelling. Displaying ~50 plus options in a dropdown would make for poor UX, as it would require scrolling.

Is there an alternative approach? (bearing in mind that the UI needs to be as compact as possible)

Edit: The user will only ever be selecting one option.

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What is the process? Is this search/data entry/settings/etc? –  dnbrv Feb 23 '12 at 21:03
    
@dnbrv: This is for specifying search criteria. While the user will know "sort of" what he/she wants to search for, it's tripped up a couple testers who try to search for what they think the field is called and give up when it can't be matched. One method we're toying with is aliasing the common non-matches after logging and reviewing user input, so that keying in "garage" would return "carport" as a match. This may be a good compromise if it doesn't turn out to be too maintenance intensive. –  drrcknlsn Feb 23 '12 at 23:30

1 Answer 1

Have a look at Chosen by Harvest, there is a good combination of autocomplete and select box that you might consider using. It is suitable for both "familiarity" situations. If the options are not familiar, there's a list from which to select. If you know what you want, there's an autocomplete that you can use.

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Could you please explain why that is a good script? At UX.SE, we focus on the interaction process and mental patterns rather than just code snippets & scripts. –  dnbrv Feb 27 '12 at 18:56
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Because it is suitable for both "familiarity" situations. If the options are not familiar, there's a list from which to select. If you know what you want, there's an autocomplete that you can use. –  Matej Hrescak Feb 27 '12 at 18:59

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