I am struggling with a client who has a (slightly irrational) dislike of slider controls.

I need to provide an alternative that can accommodate 233 selection points, of which maybe 10 are common selections but all are entirely feasible.

I tried a spinner but there just seems to be too many points for accurate and easy pinpointing.

Are there any usable alternatives?

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    Does this need to be for desktop and/or mobile? Dec 11, 2012 at 9:11
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    @RogerAttrill Good question, and if it's a responsive site (for example) would sliders even work or would you have to revert to a different control when a 233-point slider is on a x320 screen? Hmm.
    – JonW
    Dec 11, 2012 at 9:14
  • It's primarily for desktop but will be designed responsively, so I do need to consider how it will render on mobile and whether we'd need to revert to a different control type (designed for desktop first because of the context of use). Dec 11, 2012 at 10:44

4 Answers 4


Are sliders absolutely out? Could you 'make sliders more bearable' for your client - some kind of 'custom' slider that eases the pain that sliders can often have.

For example, sliders could have 'magnetic lock points' when you get to default or historical values. Spinboxes too, could be customised to pause spinning for a short while when they reach a default or historical value.

Some time ago now, I had an idea for a smart spinbox that combined elements of a spinbox and a slider, as well as a couple other enhancements. Maybe all this could be the seed of an idea.

enter image description here

Edit - an example of a final implementation (using Qt):

enter image description here

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    The fear of sliders is difficult to over come with this client. They had horrendous versions that nobody could use, then someone redesigned them and managed to make them worse, affecting conversion. I love your enhanced spinbox and initial feedback from them is positive so many MANY thanks! Dec 11, 2012 at 13:33
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    Did you ever end up trying to build this? I think it's time some of the tired old UI controls get a make over. I like the concept.
    – Michael Lai
    Jun 3, 2014 at 22:37
  • @MichaelLai Actually... yes! I did implement this for a client in C++ using Qt (as a plugin ui component) with a few extra features, although I held off on the multiple tooltips at the time. We had a situation where there was a lot of sliders and editable spinboxes all over the place. This 'smart spinbox' worked really well, saving space, reducing clutter, but still providing all the features necessary. I was going to write an article about it, but if you want to know more, see my bio and drop me an email through my website. Jun 4, 2014 at 7:55

A calendar style control provides access to 365 days of the year (ignoring the change in year itself), so could be tweaked for your purpose so as to provide at least as many choices as you need, grouped into whatever makes sense for your situation.

Without knowing more about your context (including whether it's for desktop and/or mobile), it's hard to suggest what actual tweaks you might want to make.

  • On first thoughts I like this idea but my concern is that I have no way of categorising the values (whereas a calendar is usually categorised into months so you can filter down to maximum of 31 values). Dec 11, 2012 at 12:26

Yes there are.

If the control has to provide total control (pun intended) then a slider isn't always your best bet, since they are quite inaccurate.

One way to quickly set a value on a large interval is to use the same pattern that is used on mobile alarm clocks.

enter image description here

This way the user can specify a value on a range of controls that increase/decrease the value of different magnitude.

  • How usable is something like this on a desktop application? The touch and hold action feels more smooth and natural on a mobile device, but I don't think I would have the same dexterity with releasing a mouse click.
    – sacohe
    Dec 11, 2012 at 9:12
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    @sacohe I totally agree. I can honestly say that I assumed this was for mobile, but reading the question again I see it's quite ambiguous. Dec 11, 2012 at 9:14
  • Apologies for the original ambiguity, please see comment above. Dec 11, 2012 at 10:45

This may very well be a very bad suggestion, but have you considered knobs/dials (think volume control on an amplifier, or some visual abstraction)? There will probably be interaction issues, and it is effectively a bent/circular slider, but you can still have the predefined points AND the finer resolution points in-between. Maybe it is worth as a last-resort?

  • I'm pretty sure that's what she meant by that she'd tried using spinners. Dec 11, 2012 at 9:52
  • Apologies. I thought spinners were similar to the slot-machine type elements, often encountered when setting alarms on mobile phones. I was specifically referring to circular dial/knob, found on most radios/amps/ovens etc.
    – CJF
    Dec 11, 2012 at 10:00
  • By slot machine type element, do you mean a switch..? Like on/off? Dec 11, 2012 at 10:02
  • And there's me thinking spinners were obviously spinboxes ;-) Dec 11, 2012 at 10:39
  • @RogerAttrill haha, yea I can see that too! However, she said spinners were not an alternative because it was hard to be accurate enough. That should not the problem with spinboxes, however in most other regards a hassle to deal with... :-) Dec 11, 2012 at 10:43

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