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How do I create a natural UI to let the user choose an unlimited value? Take for example, Bittorrent's bandwidth configuration:

bittorrent

Arguably, putting 0 for unlimited is not natural. Some people might interpret 0 kB/s as not downloading at all - quite the opposite of unlimited. Yes, I know there are instructions saying that 0 specifies unlimited download, but the great Steve Krug says no one should be forced to read instructions.

I'm running into a similar problem in designing my video transcoding website. I have a slider, whose value ranges from 320x240 to 1920x1080 to original. I think, currently, the original resolution is hard to discover. Does the user really know that scrubbing the slider to the right end will trigger the original setting?

enter image description here

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I'd argue that your domain doesn't seem to be a continuum, so a slider isn't appropriate. I'd suggest a linear array of radio buttons, with each one clearly labeled. The original could be a different color or otherwise called out. If you really want to use a slider, you'd be better off having a "segmented" one that only moves to distinct points along its line. –  TMN May 13 '11 at 12:37
    
You may be right about this one, but I have other continuous sliders that need an unlimited value. For example, I have a slider for a maximum bitrate which goes from 150 -> 300 -> 450 -> ... -> unlimited. –  JoJo May 13 '11 at 17:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The option of unlimited could be indicated by a simple checkbox which, when checked, disables the other field. This could be located in close proximity to the original field so its association is obvious. The control now becomes a coupled pair of controls that act as one.

In the Bittorrent example in the question it would be positioned inside the field group border.

enter image description here

For the Resolution slider example a similar approach could be used with the check box being labelled Original and when checked, as well as being disabled, the field holding the resolution value gets set to whatever original is, so the user knows.enter image description here

Another idea is to have a marker positioned above the slider where the value of the control would be equal to original as the slider passes that spot. When that position is hit the marker could change colour to serve as an indicator. This would be harder to implement though.

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This is a good option, how about switching the entry field and check box? I suppose it depends if there are any cost implications of 'unlimited' and 'original' that you'd want to minimise by asking if a lower setting was preferred? –  Adam Fellowes May 13 '11 at 10:33
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While I like the checkboxes, I think they should be the other way round. I would put the checkbox in front, have "limit bandwidth to" as its caption and follow it by the edit to specify the value to which it will be limited. An unchecked checkbox would then "naturally" mean "not limited". Same with the resolution. Put the checkbox in front with "Change resolution to" as its caption and follow it by the slider. –  Marjan Venema May 13 '11 at 16:30

How about rearranging that whole construct and change its wording?

I would suggest something like

[x] Limit download rate to [.......] kB/s

with the [x] being your checkbox. If unchecked, the whole thing would become disabled.

This would work similarly for your transcoding option - ask if the resolution should be changed at all, and if so, enable that slider.

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You could use an empty value as your unlimited state (and can label it leave blank for unlimited), that way there isn't the ambiguity of 0 .

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