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We have a control to define a distance between 2 objects. This distance can either be absolute (2 in, 15mm, ...) or relative (50 %, ...). The control behaves differently when working with units (automatic conversion) or percentages. Problems arise when the value is taken from a database. The unit is not provided (default is taken). In this case the task should know upfront whether the value is absolute or relative. So the user has to choose between relative/absolute. Does someone knows more elegant names for relative/absolute? Suggestions highly appreciated!

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Have you tested the terminology with your users? (Maybe they are fine with it). You could also look through any customer/user feedback transcripts to find what terminology they use to express the concepts. – Erics Nov 13 '13 at 8:42
No not yet, but we could start with relative/absolute. Although not everybody knows the difference between both terms – Gerd Nov 13 '13 at 8:50
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If you don't have any other relative units other than percentage then I would use the words percentage and number to denote relative and absolute respectively.

Hopefully people will understand that percentage will always be relative.

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"Number" is really not that good of a term for an absolute value. – AndroidHustle Nov 13 '13 at 9:49
@Androidhustle If there are a limited number of options for units these could be displayed so the options would be "Percentage", "Inches", "Centimetres" or "Millimetres" – bendataclear Nov 13 '13 at 10:23
In case of an absolute value all units are accepted and converted so displaying the units as options is not a solution. Percentage/number is the best I heard up to now. – Gerd Nov 13 '13 at 12:12
@Gerd the only other word I can think for absolute is "fixed" – bendataclear Nov 13 '13 at 12:51

I had the same question on a project and we choose to display both informations.

The user didn't want to think about the information the most valuable for him before to choose one, he just wanted to see it and both relative and absolute distance were useful to him.

Does the percentage has to be shown ? Because you can also display it as a slider, so the user have an accurate measure and a visual estimation of the relative size.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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Hi, the value has to be entered by the user, so it is another use case. thanks however! – Gerd Nov 13 '13 at 12:09

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