As I was writing another question here at UX, I realized that I wanted to discuss more things pertaining to the same problem. I thought it would be a good idea to split the question into two since they are somewhat different by nature.

When writing user interfaces that are aimed at being used by a lot of different users with a wide range of experience levels, many of whom do not use a computer on a daily basis, is it better to strictly stick to the conventions or is it a good idea to try to guide the user with experience altering solutions of varying sophistication levels?

Take the simple task of switching focus from one input field to another in a web based form for example:

An experienced user would most likely use the tab-key to switch back and forth between the fields, while a less experienced user might use the mouse to navigate the form. In this case, would it be better to stick with the convention of simply putting the cursor in the field without selecting anything when using the mouse and selecting all text when using the tab-key. Or would it be a good idea to use some kind of technique to work around the conventional behavior and having all text selected when using the mouse too?

  • @Rahul: Why does my posts get edited for small details all the time? I know I don't speak English as my native tongue already and I don't want to start a brawl, but I want to know why I get the notification that someone has revised my posts every single time I log on. It is kind of discouraging, no matter how much I love the idea of stackexchage. Please explain!
    – dotmartin
    Jan 24, 2012 at 20:42
  • Hi Martin, I edited your question to correct some spelling issues. Don't take it personally - I was just helping you improve the question so that it's easier to read and will appear higher in Google search results. Anyone with enough rep can edit other people's questions; content you submit to Stack Exchange sites becomes part of the network and available for others to adapt and improve.
    – Rahul
    Jan 24, 2012 at 22:23
  • Thanks for the explaination. Come to think about it I was kind of expecting something like that. I do think you guys have good intentions with what you do. However, it is kind of frustrating having your questions corrected by someone else, feels like being back at grammar school. Anyways, I'll try to learn something from it in the future.
    – dotmartin
    Jan 24, 2012 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


I expect the cursor to be where I put it. If I want to move it, I move it (using TAB or mouse). Having the cursor suddenly appearing in a different field, as an experienced user, throws me right off. You're better off getting users used to conventions than changing expectations for everyone else.

The exception may be where the user is in a completely different environment, such as a kiosk, where the user is expecting a different kind of environment from the get-go. It it looks and feels foreign people are more likely to not expect typical behaviour.

  • Good point. This way the more experienced user will not be agitated and the novice is just in their normal situation, in a way a situation they are somewhat used to. Do you think there is a way to hint about the conventional ways, of for instance navigation, to the less experienced user without making it corny or hinder the more experienced ones?
    – dotmartin
    Jan 24, 2012 at 20:53
  • A big red HELP button with a video walk-through? Jan 24, 2012 at 20:57

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