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This is a very thin (and probably trivial) usability issue but I'd like your input. The user of a webapp is editing his/her profile settings. For each setting there is a label, the actual input/checkbox and a small piece of help text giving more insight on the setting itself.

Notifications:            [X]
                          We'll notify you 5 days ahead with
                          such and such...

Days ahead for            [ 5 ]
notification:             Controls how many days ahead you'd
                          like to hear from us.

The question is whether you feel that the occurence of number 5 in the help text of the first option is confusing. Changing the value 5 in the second option will update the help text in real time via javascript, so if the user changes it to 8 the help text of the first option will be updated immediatelly to "We'll notify you 8 days ahead..."

So, is this helpful? Or should I just play safe and change the help text of the first option to something generic like "We'll notify you with such and such..." ?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Why don't you put both options on the same row:

[X] Notify me with [ 5 ] days ahead
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That one blew my mind :) Thanks. – cherouvim Feb 17 '11 at 8:57
If it helped, can you mark it as approved :D – Gabriel Solomon Feb 17 '11 at 11:28
I know (10k SO user here:) and that's what I'll do eventually but I'd still like some opinions on the question as originally posed regarding the dynamic help text. – cherouvim Feb 17 '11 at 15:26
@cherouvim, your problem is purely grouping. There may be a more generic answer, but this is the correct answer to this particular problem. It's simple, easy to understand, and efficient. – srcspider Feb 18 '11 at 8:12
@srcspider: I agree. – cherouvim Feb 18 '11 at 8:26

You have to break up the restrictive "one label, one control, one help text" layout. Then you have various options, ususally having one label, two controls and one help text.

If you use a parameter definition list, and the page is generated on the fly from that list, I' recommend adding an optiponal "enabled" checkbox to your record. This is surprisingly compact and flexible even for more complex input.

Now go and accept solomongaby's answer - it' simple, elegant, and does the job ;)

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