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I know people asked this question a decade ago. (Are round check boxes confusing or an accepted standard?)

So, after all these years, has this become a standard in terms of usability? Or is it purely a UI trend?

Has this become the accepted norm/UX pattern for mobile devices?

Google Photos:

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Apple Notes:

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Evernote:

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Personally, I would never use this pattern in an enterprise application. But I'm curious to see if there are examples that suggest otherwise.

The only exception I could see was from the Microsoft OneNote app.

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  • I don’t think questions about a company’s design decisions are on topic on this site.
    – moonman239
    Commented Nov 16, 2022 at 15:52
  • We can only speculate on the answer to this. If you want to know why Company X has done something then you'll have to find a support forum from that particular company.
    – JonW
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 15:40

2 Answers 2

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Addressing the usability issue, let's make some distinctions, albeit the operations being very similar in functionality.

The first example is not necessarily a check-box. Rather the check in a circle acts as a flag, an indication of status—"this item is selected".

flag

 

The next images are, functionally, "checkboxes", not only an indication of status, but also a mechanism to change the status. In some cases, in this single-column-text-list format, the ONLY mechanism to change the status.

The users, depending on whether they favor graphic interpretation versus text, are more likely to click the box (or circle) to change the item status, compared to the flag representation.

checkbox 1 checkbox 2 checkbox 3

 

So what particularly are the usability pitfalls of using a boxes vs. a circles? In the case of flags none come to mind. In the case of single-column-text-lists it's confusion with "radio" buttons. Check-boxes indicate the ability to make multiple selections, radio buttons...single selections. On this issue, the context of the list contributes greatly to user expectation of how many from the list can be selected, compared to the shape of the activation device.

If the context clearly indicates multiple selections are possible the shape is less likely to have much significance.

However, consider the reverse scenario, using boxes for single selection lists. Regardless of how clear the context is presented, how much more likely is a user going to click more than one in the list, simply because they are boxes? Where does this convention come from—boxes/multiple, circles/single?

push button

...? If so, how pertinent is that today?

Ideally interface conventions are based on our common physical interaction with the "real world". When it comes to human-computer interaction there's not always an appropriate or effective—or enduring—counterpart, (think telephone...). And in that case conventions are likely to evolve over time, in response to trends or technological and cultural changes.

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Checklists

In managing a checklist, your user will understand that each item on the list can be individually marked done/pending. As such, the specific control used is of less importance, as long as it signifies being tickable. Whether a round checkbox or a rectangular one, the user will intuitively understand that ticking one task has no effect on the rest.

Selections

Similarly, for a collection from which items can be picked/selected, as is the case in your Google Photos example, your user will understand they're dealing with a set of items that can be individually controlled. Again, the affordance of the control is made unambiguous from its context.

Radio vs. checkbox

A lot of users were brought up on the web, where browser rendering of native controls consistently presented squared checkboxes and rounded radio buttons. However, as mobile interfaces became more prevalent, so did their particular (ever increasing) native UI controls. This has now led to some ambiguity, as for instance round checkboxes don't exist in most modern browsers.

Choosing the right control

In short, 'the' accepted norm doesn't exist. You'll find popular task managers that use a different signifier from the circular checkbox. To identify which control to use, you'll have to know the type of user and the medium you're designing for. When your persona research shows that your user base has interacted with rounded checkboxes before, you may more readily choose to adopt them. Providing clear context also is key to help a user pre-attentively understand a control's affordance.

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