User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm creating an interface, meant to be used by non-technical business people, which needs to be able to define simple structures to hold some user data.

I want to be able to support Boolean fields, but I suspect that most non-technical people won't know what "Boolean" means.

To avoid explaining it, I'm thinking of using the word "Switch" and comparing it to a power/light switch, i.e. it can only be on or off.

Does this make sense, or can anyone suggest a better alternative?

For context, it is a mostly English-speaking audience.

Edit: I don't think I explained this very well :^(

I'm talking in general terms here, so nothing to do with the labels that will be displayed or the user's problem domain. A string of characters is a "Text" field, a date is a "Date" field, so what do I call a field that holds Boolean values?

Edit 2: The question that has been suggested is similar, although I didn't find it during search, as the title doesn't really relate to the content.

I want to avoid "Checkbox", as suggested here and in that question. Even if many people know what a checkbox is, it still ties the name to an implementation detail, albeit a common one.

share|improve this question
1  
Would the users care what the class of fields is called, or know anything about how the UI is built? – JDługosz Mar 6 at 18:07
1  
State or status? – Roger Attrill Mar 6 at 19:35
8  
A "yes/no field"? – immibis Mar 6 at 23:18
2  
Is Boolean the most accurate term to describe the data? I thought that Boolean indicates that there are two states and that you can switch from one to the other, but it doesn't necessarily tell you the relationship between the states. They can be mutually exclusive (yes/no, on/off) but also complementary (checkbox). You can also have a button group that includes some combination of mutually exclusive and complementary values, which is getting popular because of Bootstrap. – Michael Lai Mar 7 at 2:46
5  
Possible duplicate of How to convey a true/false value to a user? – MichaelS Mar 7 at 6:57

11 Answers 11

up vote 53 down vote accepted

Switch sounds perfectly fine to me, but I'd suggest Toggle which is specifically a two-position switch.

If you rather want to describe the type of the value, not the UI element, I'd go for Flag.

share|improve this answer
1  
I would even call it Toggle (1 of 2 values e.g. YES/NO) in the UI, you have the space and this extra definition will explain it very clearly – Falco Mar 7 at 13:49

How will the data be entered and shown to the user? Presumably a checkbox or tickbox.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes, checkbox or something that looks like an on/off switch, which is why I thought calling it a "Switch" field would make sense – Steve Jones Mar 6 at 18:48
19  
Why come up with a new name when you can just call it a checkbox? – Laplie Anderson Mar 7 at 16:32
    
@LaplieAnderson is right since a "check box" is a real thing that people understand, and isn't just the name of a UI element. – Rick Henderson Mar 10 at 2:04

I'd use contextual words that relate to the option / question rather than trying to find a one size fits all solution. You might find a good way of representing the options like this but you must consider the context of the language of the option.

So for 'Activate Widget?' You would use 'yes' or 'no'.

Or for a list of widgets, you might use 'enable' or 'disable'.

Using language that relates to the option as the user sees it is the best way, this is speaking the users language. They certainly shouldn't see the word Boolean, unless they're programmers!

Make sure your designs are clear between on and off so it's easy to see what option is selected.

share|improve this answer
1  
What I meant was how to describe a Boolean field, not what values it should have. – Steve Jones Mar 6 at 17:32
    
the same applies, use the language of the user's problem domain, for the labels and the choices - the label and the choices should be tightly tied contextually – Toni Leigh Mar 6 at 18:26
1  
I guess I'm not explaining myself properly. I mean if they add a field for containing characters, that's a Text Field, so what do they call a Boolean Field? Nothing to do with the labels or even the problem domain, as I'm talking in purely generic terms – Steve Jones Mar 6 at 18:47
3  
@SteveJones I think he is creating an interface that let's people create fields (possibly for a CMS). For example, text fields, date fields, and boolean fields. The problem is that everyone understands what text and date means, but not "boolean" so he looking for a term that is more universally recognizable. – Andrew Mar 7 at 19:38
1  
@Andrew yes, that's right. I guess I wan't clear enough in my original question. – Steve Jones Mar 8 at 19:46

On one of my employer's products there is functionality to define properties on an object which we refer to as "User Defined Elements". These are usually set up by IT people, but the sector our customers work in is one where "IT people" are not always technical. The convention we've settled on for these User Defined Elements is for Boolean properties with a UI check-box associated to be called a flag. Switch sounds reasonable though.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks that's exactly the kind of scenario I meant. – Steve Jones Mar 7 at 18:36

IMO "Yes/no" is harder to misunderstand than "switch" (you know how easily some end users can find ways to misunderstand things -- those are the ones you need to worry about). "Switch" is good though, especially if you can add a little explanation on the toolbox list or whatever: "Use a Switch to let your users switch a feature on and off" or some such thing.

But you know what, they already know what a "checkbox" is and what it does in a UI, and they probably call it by that name. Throw in a little checked checkbox icon, just to be safe. You don't want to introduce new terms if you don't have to; if you say "switch" some of them are going to think "ok, it's not a checkbox -- so what IS it?!".

Our users ask us to "add a checkbox", unquote. Unless your users are extremely new to computers, I bet "Checkbox" would be well understood.

share|improve this answer
    
Checkboxes are a limited form of boolean. Do you want Chicken or Fish for dinner during the flight? Does [x] mean Chicken, does [ ] mean Chicken? A toggle allows for a binary choice that isn't a yes/no situation. – PixelSnader Mar 8 at 20:54
    
@PixelSnader "Chicken or fish" isn't a Boolean question. OP said "Boolean" several times and didn't show any sign of being unfamiliar with the term. You could just as usefully say that the Boolean data type is a limited form of integer. – Ed Plunkett Mar 8 at 21:14
    
Chicken or fish is a boolean in the airline situation; you have to pick a meal. It doesn't matter if your boolean uses 0/1, yes/no, fish/chicken, or whatever 2 terms. Phrasing it as yes/no implies (unnecessary) limits to the end user, as does calling it a tickbox. All that matters is it's a binary choice. – PixelSnader Mar 8 at 22:06
1  
@PixelSnader: Sorry, but that's wrong. Boolean algebra refers to a setting with two choices, one of which is true and one of which is false. These are not just arbitrary labels, they have an intrinsic meaning, in that for instance "true AND false = false" and so on. You can't do that with chicken. What you are probably thinking might be called a binary choice, a choice between two arbitrary labels. – cfh Mar 8 at 22:11
    
@PixelSnader I provided a source. I was too patient with you. – Ed Plunkett Mar 8 at 22:21

I'd name the field type "True/False" or "Yes/No". Or just "Boolean" -- people can always look it up in a dictionary.

share|improve this answer
20  
I don't think a solution that expects people to use a dictionary is a great idea – Sentient Mar 6 at 18:14
3  
i think the idea is reduce friction and make things intuitive, something a user has to look up and remember is not very intuitive and should be avoided if a better option is available – Toni Leigh Mar 6 at 18:31
    
I'd +1 except for the last remark. The whole point of giving a good UI is to make things easy to use without having to have Internet or a dictionary on hand. – QPaysTaxes Mar 6 at 22:46
3  
For a moment, let's pretend that the user's not an idiot...? – Roger Lipscombe Mar 7 at 9:20
2  
I'm with @RogerLipscombe on this. You're not asking general users to understand what a boolean value is, you're asking people who are designing forms. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect them to understand something about the field (pun intended). True/False and Yes/No both imply a certain style of questions ("Do you want eggs?"), but a Boolean also allows for other options that couldn't given by that option (eg "Do you want eggs or mushrooms?", as in you need to pick one of exactly two options). – Algy Taylor Mar 7 at 9:36

I assume this is similar to a self-serve form/questionnaire builder or database field builder, so you could look at fields terminology at similar products like Wufoo. The answer should be different based on what the users are expecting to build.

Field List

If you are letting users build a form, Checkbox works because they are wanting to build a checkbox, and the actual Boolean type is abstracted away for them. The SurveyMonkey link above just treats Boolean as a special case of Multiple Choice or Checkbox.

If you are displaying the final element as a set of two radio-buttons, then Choice could work. If you are using this as a database field builder, try Toggle, Binary Setting, Boolean or Flag.

share|improve this answer

If it really is a boolean choice then the obvious choice would be True or False. Otherwise Tony's answer seems the most reasonable.

share|improve this answer
    
I think the the examples I give are Booleans? – Toni Leigh Mar 6 at 17:11

I would rather 'is', if you have to define too much boolean statement which are different then each others.

isOn yes/no isGreater yes/no isWorking yes/no isBroken yes/no

According to different situations 'is' is fitting. Also 'is' + 'verb' defines the situation very well.

share|improve this answer

This might not be the final solution, but anyway I want to say a couple things.
Firstly, "toggle" and "switch" convey a sense of the user taking action to set/reset them. Both are also verbs, and if my mobile had a toggle then it's me who set its value (my thumb gets excited each time I think of a toggle!).
On the other hand, these values will be set by the application data, if I don't get it wrong, so these are more "questions" than "toggles".
The "is" solution brought to you by @ihsancemil is aligned whti my ideas, albeit "is" is a programmer's naming convention for boolean properties and does not fit in this question's "normal people" requirement.
It it was my UI I'd explore words like "question", "query", "inquiry", "test", ...

For one who is not a programmer, it's difficult to grock events that occur somehow autonomously, out of out direct control (like the thumb controlling the toggle).
Questions convey more the idea of an unpredictable answer generated somewhere else. "Question" or any other similar concept.

share|improve this answer

Predicate from Lisp. It's more obscure than Boolean and they'll pass it while looking up 'predicate' in teh dictionarly

share|improve this answer
2  
Hopefully Boolean is more useful and commonly known that the syntax of the ancient Lisp Programming language. – Benny Skogberg Mar 7 at 16:31
4  
While a clever glib answer, using such logic for naming concepts would not ultimately do well for the usefulness of a system. – Evil Closet Monkey Mar 7 at 16:44
1  
reminds me of uni project a guy did in my college to deliberately make the least usable interface! – Toni Leigh Mar 7 at 20:24
2  
Predicate is actually a term from formal logic. It's not a true/false datatype, it's something which tells you if some object fulfills a particular property or not. It's used in quite the same way in Lisp. – cfh Mar 8 at 22:15

protected by Community Mar 7 at 16:48

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.