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I develop a desktop app with a wizard like dialog which requires several parameters to be set.

Currently all parameters are displayed in a grid with a label and an appropriate control next to it, e.g.

The design problem that I am facing is that there are two parameters (Number of layers and Layer distance) depict the same thing: As the total range is fixed the number of layers is simply the total range divided by the layer distance. When the user changes either value the other one is updated accordingly.

How can I make it clear that those values are interdependent? All the other parameters in the form are not interdependent but have the same appearance.

Should I try to fuse them into a single control? How?

One solution would be to only provide one way to define the value and let the user do the math but this wouldn't be very nice.

Another idea I had was to let the user choose which way to define the value by replacing the label with a combobox which can be set to either Number of layers or Layer distance with the textbox displaying and updating the appropriate value:

but the combobox break up the design as it looks quite different than a label.

Do you have a better idea?

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Is there a limit for the number of layers ? And does the user really need to choose the layer distance ? I don't know the app context but selecting a number of layer seems to be more intuitive than choosing a distance between layers –  Renaud May 6 at 9:02
    
@Renaud: No. There's the technical limitation that too many layers will bring down the performance of the app up to the point where it runs out of memory and there's the logical limit that it doesn't make sense to have more layers than the "resolution" of the input data but theoretically the number of layers is not constrained. –  Roman Reiner May 6 at 9:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The two parameters are linked so it is important that the user understand it easily.

  • Display both fields at the same time so the user can see that changing one impact the other one.
  • if possible, Help the user to visualize the results
  • Use adapted fields and display the unit of the distance
  • Give the field a standard default value

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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you could have an equals sign between the two controls to indicate that one value affects the other. you could even add the calculation to give more detail to the user on what is going on when they change one value and the other updates automatically –  Dave Haigh May 6 at 11:30
    
and also laying them out side by side could further emphasise their relationship - see googles converters for ideas on this –  Dave Haigh May 6 at 11:30

If you are going to offer the user the ability to set both sides of two related measurements, I would tend to say it would be best practice to present both to the user at the same time so they can see the direct effect their actions on one has over the other.

If you combine the two into a single control, only one will be visible at a time and although their relationship may be implied (by being grouped together) it will not necessarily seem implicit to the user (you are working on the assumption not only they know the relationship exists, but the exact nature of it).

From a UI perspective, if you are working with related dimensions, users should be presented with them simultaneously and each should update in real time when one is changed. One of the most common implementations of this is to use related sliders next to one another and when the user changes the value of one, the position of the other(s) updates automatically, (think changing either r, g, or b on RGB color-pickers).

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Allow the user to toggle which unit of measurement they want to use: either layers or distance. Presumably you have some users or use cases where one unit is advantageous or preferred over the other. So let them choose.

Conceptually this is like a unit of measurement problem, very similar to say entering a parameter in cm or inches. Think of the layers and distance as units of measurement of a single parameter rather than different parameters.

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