Each train type on each section of track has a specific running time, set by Those Who Know.

My users need the option of modifying the value of that setting (train journey time in minutes) by either

  • a percentage (positive or negative)
  • a fixed number of minutes (train will take longer or shorter than the setting)
  • total blockage (train will not run)

In a datagrid, the users will choose a start and end point on the rail network (which determines which sections of track are affected), the time period when their adjustment will be valid, and the adjustment type and value.

I thought to use just a single column in each row as an input field for "Adjustment" which allows entry of any of the option above.

Is that possible? Is it wise? Please suggest a clear interface to choose and enter one of the three adjustment options above.

  • So you want your users to modify the set running time using either of those three methods right? How do you intend to use % with time here?
    – maulik13
    Mar 14 '14 at 14:00
  • @maulik13 Well, if the time setting is 60 minutes, and the users want that adjusted 125%, the setting will become 75 minutes. Multiply the time by your percent adjustment. Mar 14 '14 at 14:22
  • Is it possible to add an image of your current solution or ideas? It's difficult to picture the solution without some context. What are other elements on the screen?, is it desktop, web, or mobile, etc.
    – GWv
    Mar 14 '14 at 14:27
  • @MichaelSandler So it's a 25% increase to the original time. I think that is easier to understand than thinking 125% of original. But it depends.
    – maulik13
    Mar 14 '14 at 14:49
  • 2
    @MichaelSandler: I think it could be useful to provide more information on your users. After all you are to a degree asking what you can expect from them with regards to understanding and making use of your interface. Technically you could allow for entries like "75m", "+15m", "125%", "+25%" and so on (to stick with your example), providing the option to use absolute or relative setting of the value. That could of course be beyond simple users. Mar 14 '14 at 15:24

Photoshop lets you select what unit to use when setting the image size. I haven't had any problems with this and I feel that it's clear what the outcome will be. The unit drop down menu contains Pixels and Percent.

Photoshop will, however, not allow any other inputs than digits. I would appreciate if the user could type "150%" into the box which could change the drop down from Pixels to Percent (and vice versa if the user typed in 150px). This would probably need some testing (should the % still be in the input area after the drop down has switched etc.)

Photoshop Image Settings


You have two options

  • Have a user choose unit of change in a drop-down
  • Direct input method (e.g. +25%) and detect unit automatically

Some points to consider:

  • How often this input will be used
  • Is your user base comfortable using direct input method (without the drop-down)
  • How critical is it to save space in your grid

Personally I like the direct input method and I would suggest that method as long as you can make the usage clear to the users. I would use a small tooltip box that shows up when the input box is in focus. Here is an example, enter image description here

As long as you could make the tips clear enough I think this should work. I have added an icon on the column header if a user needs to reference the input pattern. In addition, think about giving real time feedback for the new calculated time. This will make users comfortable with the direct input method.

To summarize drop-down approach is easier for the first time users, however direct input method is quicker to use once a user has spent some time with the system.

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