We have a situation where we have a list of choices (e.g Beers) from which a maximum of one may be chosen to associate with another item (e.g. My favourite beer).

It's also possible that the user may opt to associate nothing from the Beers list with My favourite beer at all. Or the user, having made a choice yesterday from Beers, may decide to remove it from the association today.

Radio buttons don't seem appropriate as the list of Beers may be very long. And checkboxes would encourage the user to think that more than one could be chosen.

I had thought that just having an item highlighted in the list of Beers would be okay for selection, and hence if the highlight was removed, that would mean no preference. However other team members think that there should be a None option in the list.

I'd be grateful to know what others think.

3 Answers 3


You could have a drop-down box, with an X on the side when something is selected to remove the selection, as shown below:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

But, to be honest, the basic 'None' or Blank choice is simpler to impliment and probably less likely to confuse the user (no fancy X needed, just choose None again).

  • I seriously like the X thingy. The list of beers can grow large, introducing the discussion "where to place the None word? At the top or between 'Non Stop Beer' and 'Nonnetjes Slootwater'?" The X will simply remove the choice without letting the user search for None (or was it Blank, Null, Empty, Geen, Zero, Nihil, Nada, Nothing, Void, No Favorite etc.). May 29, 2012 at 8:59
  • Good point. If you do choose to use the basic choice, put whichever 'No Favorite' you want as they very first choice on the list, not alphabetized. I can see how the X avoids the confusion of having to find it again on the list; I had not considered that as a benefit. May 29, 2012 at 18:16

If you want the user to be able to go back to stating "no preference" then you pretty much need to have a "none" item in the list for them to pick. Picking your favourite beer/TV show would fall into this category.

If the user has to select one option from the list and then can't change it (or at least can't change it back to "no preference" then you could leave it out. I was going to say picking your gender falls into this category, but other questions on here lead me to think that it shouldn't.

Given that the number of things that fall into this latter category are quite small, on balance having a "no preference" option is probably a good thing.


The way you described the process reads a bit counter-intuitive. "Associating a choice (beer) with an item (favorite)" is something I had to read twice to understand, even though the idea is very straightforward. This may manifest in the way you're structuring your interaction. "Choosing an item out of many" might be more to the point and hints at a solution. Again, it's just language but often good to keep in mind.

A common way of choosing one item out of a collection is the way a select box is set up: upon activating the control, the user is presented with a list, from which she chooses an item. The way this collection is presented can differ from simple vertical lists while still maintaining the familiar flow. In the case of a large collection a two-dimensional grid with categorization as well as filter and search options seems appropriate.

No preference is usually stated by a None item, to provide the option of removing the preference after setting it.

If the list of items (beers) exists anyway, maybe as part of the general UI, providing a small, clickable marker (often a star) could work as well. Though this doesn't communicate the 1-1 relationship as well as the previous solution.

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