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Topic of discussion.

Is it a usability problem to have an input field be too wide?

For example:

I am creating an internal management system where users come to view orders in the system. When viewing the orders users can enter in comments. To make data entry easier I have made the decision to have the input fields already appear at the top of the page so the user just has to start typing and enter data at a faster speed.

With this being an internal app we are utilizing the full width of the screen so the "notes" input field spans the full width.

Should this be a usability concern?


share|improve this question
Are comments tied to particular orders? – Alexey Kolchenko Oct 28 '13 at 19:23
Yes each order has their own notes – Jason Frade Oct 28 '13 at 19:59
up vote 12 down vote accepted


I think there are several usability problems in current design.

  • Wide single line input limits the way that note could be expressed (no paragraphs, no breaks) and makes the reading much harder.
  • Interaction style is non-convenient, as note-taking area is disjoined from appropriate order. This creates jump-and-search behavior while taking a note, see image. Also it's unclear which of the orders is currently being commented.

All this leads to errors, low efficiency and user's unsatisfaction, which are attributes of usability.
enter image description here


Don't disjoint order and note. Change an interaction, as shown. enter image description here
Some features to make the interaction more fast and convenient are:

  • Multiline edit control, which allows more convenient input and reading.
  • Direct input pattern, which lets display edit control only while editing. It makes interface more clear.
  • Autosave text in input control to make interaction faster.
share|improve this answer

You normally design form fields to match the expected input. Do you have a maximum character count for this field? If so, you can display a countdown, decrementing that number as the user types, to provide them with real-time guidance on how wordy they are allowed to be, and also to circumvent the awkward flow of accepting their typing and then erroring out because they went on too long.

Typical usability issues with this sort of field:

  • User thinks "am I limited to one line of text?"
  • or the inverse "do I have to write a novel?" and
  • "How can I see or edit what I've put in if it is no longer in the viewport?"

If you expect people to type more than a few words, I agree with others who have mentioned using a multi-line field.

share|improve this answer
These are some great points to think about and some great ideas as well. This input field is for users to enter notes that get attached to the order. These notes could be a little as 10 words or as long as 1000 characters. – Jason Frade Oct 28 '13 at 18:38
For 1000 characters, I'd definitely recommend a multi-line text box rather than a single-line one. – AlexC Nov 3 '13 at 19:28
Tl;dr affordances. – lineplay Nov 4 '13 at 22:34

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