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What is the fastest way to select two elements from a list of about ten? Here are some constraints:

  • The list elements are strings of about 5-6 words, drawn from a list of 600.
  • The users are completing this task many times per day.
  • However, the server, not the user, is choosing the ten list elements, so typing to filter the list is out.
  • The users have to pick the correct two out of the list; they can't just pick two at random. Choosing the correct elements will take the user around 1 second.
  • The elements can be presented on the screen in any shape or form.
  • The users will be using a mouse or a keyboard.
share|improve this question
Hi Kevin, welcome to UX! We'll need some more background to give you a good answer. You say that users complete this task many times a day - do they do this many times in a row, or do they switch to other tasks in between? Do they mostly use the keyboard or the mouse? Or is it a touch screen? – Vitaly Mijiritsky Aug 10 '11 at 6:02
Really we need to know more about this. What is the decision process of the user to choose two items? Does it matter? For example if I put 100 boxes on screen - each with a different pair from the 10 items and the selection process just becomes 'click a button', then what is wrong with that? I have no doubt it is wrong but why in your case is it wrong. There has to be more to it than simply 'select two items from 10'. Context, context, context... – Roger Attrill Aug 10 '11 at 8:59
@Roger: I agree that we need more info to provide better answers, but Kevin is looking for "the fastest way", and picking 1 out of 100 is obviously not the fastest way :-) – Jørn E. Angeltveit Aug 10 '11 at 9:39
@Roger: BTW, you can speed up your solution by reducing the number of buttons from 100 to 45 ;-) – Jørn E. Angeltveit Aug 10 '11 at 9:41
@Jorn - 45 you're right :-) Perhaps my point could be better made by asking what exactly is wrong with a single I'm feeling lucky button! – Roger Attrill Aug 10 '11 at 10:08
up vote 3 down vote accepted

A general answer is that checkboxes indicate that multiple choices can be made and button list indicates that only one at a time can be selected. It's possible to make the checkbox being checked just by clicking the name (the click doesn't have to be on the checkbox). This will speed things up since the hit area will increase.

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Checkboxes are much better than a listbox, of course. What was I thinking? +1 :-) – Jørn E. Angeltveit Aug 10 '11 at 8:48
+1 ! And turn the other checkboxes off when two of them are selected. – Alex Fernandez Aug 10 '11 at 9:24

If users of the interface will do this selection many times a day, then you are able to experiment with new approaches. I mean that learnability is the main factor here and you don't have to use widely well known patterns.

Check box sounds not that good in my opinion, clicking regular checkboxes is not so easy. It's easier if the label is more than one lines long, but in this case it's not sure (5-6 words).

I recommend to use some kind of mixed technique:

  • use different big sized checkboxes, not the defaults
  • use reasonably big text to help users in faster choice
  • after user picks 2 elements make the others even visually inactive
  • clicking again on a selected element will remove the selection so users are able to choose another one

And again: you are able to experiment with different methods because of learnability.

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I like the idea of using oversized elements to make scanning and selection easier, since the list is confined to ten. – Todd Sieling Aug 11 '11 at 17:21

How about [mouse click to select first element] + [mouse click to select second element] + [mouse click ok-button]?

enter image description here

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The problem here is to define the app behavior when you click on a third item before clicking "OK" :) – Alex Fernandez Aug 10 '11 at 9:22

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