Cycling through a list of items is a common user interface design pattern.
- Browser address bar: hold Up or Down to scroll through the list of websites.
- On-screen keyboard: hold Left or Right to select a key.
- Operating system application switcher: hold keys to cycle through a list of all open windows or applications:
- Windows: AltTab
- Mac: ⌘Tab
After hitting the end of the list, the selection cursor is generally able to go back to the start. But should that next cycle occur immediately and seamlessly? Or after a pause or subsequent action?
This question concerns what should happen when you are holding the key and the list selection cursor hits the end of the list.
There are two frequently used behaviors:
- The cycle stops or pauses at the end of the list. Hold the key again, in either direction, to restart the cycle.
- The cycle seamlessly wraps around to the other side of the list and continues cycling.
These behaviors can be easily compared via the Mac and iOS application switchers:
When you hold ⌘Tab:
macOS application switcher stops at the end of the list, until you manually restart it:
iOS application switcher (using an iPad external keyboard) wraps around and cycles continuously:
Which behavior is preferable?
What are the advantages and disadvantages for seamless cycling vs. a stop/pause?