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I was creating a mockup for an login settings window, and when i came to the option for "auto logout", i was wondering if it should be a spinbox, allowing the user to set any value (in minutes), or a combobox with set values (i.e. "Never" / 15 minutes / 30 minutes / 1 hour / 4 hours / etc).

Simplified Mocks:

Option 1

Spinbox

Option 2'

Combobox

Looking for some patterns, i basically came across both options. A few examples from windows:

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Is there any rule for which too use?

  • There might be some 'rule of thumb' that you can apply, but it would ultimately still depend on what your reasons are and what the user's expectations might be. I think if you can provide some context for the type of application and users that you are designing for it might help come up with more suitable answers. – Michael Lai Jul 9 '18 at 4:33
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OSX uses the same option as your second example, although they use a horizontal slider, ranging from '1 minute' to 'Never' (see example below).

enter image description here

The first example gives the user a lot of freedom, but pretty much restricts them to only enter one value (like minutes), whereas the other option restricts the customisability but makes is easier to decide on a specific interval.

The most important thing here is to understand what the most common practice would be. When asked for an update reminder (for example), it would be more convenient to use a larger time interval, whereas a screen saver could use a more specific interval. Recurring events have no impact on this matter.

Setting a reminder interval to 420 minutes because I want it to act again tonight just doesn't sound all that convenient.

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    I can't really say i like the OSX approach. I already had some negative test results when using sliders (to inaccurate, can't set my own values) that i replaced most with spinboxes (or a combination) with good results. – DennisW Feb 5 '18 at 12:33
  • The spinbox sure has some advantages. Though I would argue that a dropdown is usually faster and that a slider has the advantage of displaying all options at all times. – Levano Feb 5 '18 at 12:35
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    I can't even determine which time is selected in the image. I know it's more than 1 minute and less than 15 minutes. I guess it's 10 minutes, but I could be wrong. As this is not a linear arrangement of values, I have no clear idea what the value of any of the unlabeled tick marks are. You say in the comment that the slider has the advantage of displaying all options at all times, which I think is not true: I don't see if 45 minutes, 90 minutes, or 2 hours are selectable options. I can find this out only by basically testing all slider positions. Is this really a good UX decision? – Schmuddi Sep 2 '19 at 10:07
  • It would be much better if slider was showing what that position means. Like a label above a slider. I still think this approach is the best. Just need a lite improvement. The list is bed for discoverability, people will only edit that time when they are already annoyed. If you do a slider it is easier to see, a user will think about what he/she needs when he/she click the settings and change it to his/her needs, before they get annoyed. – Ada Dec 31 '19 at 9:17
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Do you want to encourage or steer the user to a typical setting? This could be easier with a slider or drop down. With a spin box, it's more free for all don't you think?

Since Auto logout is a security feature, it seems like you'd want the user to see a recommended choice with additional options.

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I think you'll find that the decision of using one or the other input control will be based on the type of information that is required to be entered frequently.

As you can see, the spinner control is ideal for smaller increments or frequent changes to the input (i.e. making adjustments) because of the way it is designed to allow making positive or negative increments to an existing (default) value.

On the other hand, the combobox works well for smaller increments, one reason being the amount of space it takes up to display all the possible values, and another being the way values have to be selected.

Hence, under Option 1 of your mockup I would probably expect to see increments of single minutes (e.g. 10, 11, 12, etc.) and for Option 2 I would probably expect to see increments of 5 or 10 min within a narrower range of values (e.g. 10-30min).

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