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For Windows based software regarding image processing, I am torn between two options for grouping logically similar parameter controls.

enter image description here

The option on the left is more thrifty with screen space, which is a consideration in this case, but I can not form an opinion on which option is more convenient or understandable. I think the groupboxes (option on the right) might cause unnecessary clutter. On the other hand, the group titles for the option on the left may look too much like buttons, which they are not.

Which option is more 'correct' and why?

Also, this is my first question on UX and am unsure what to tag this, please advise.

  • You can use white space, instead of the boxes. – DesignerAnalyst Aug 30 '14 at 16:26
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I think I would choose the option on the right as it is more common and understandable. The option on the left doesn't look good at all for me. If the problem is the space, you can look for another design but putting the text vertically makes reading difficult.

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Out of your two examples I would choose the right one. The one on the left looks like one group rather than 2.

If space is a concern you could try implementing the group titles as tabs like in Adobe Photoshop (see screenshot). It is very clear what options relate to which group and the user can choose which arrangement of panels to construct which are essentially groups of the groups.

enter image description here

  • Thank you. I doubt I will use tabs in this case because it's important to see all values concurrently. I'll go with the groupboxes. – Rotem Aug 29 '14 at 16:16
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I agree that the second option is clearer. But, you could make it easier on the eyes with better visual design. I think if you replaced the title & dashed border with a title in a box that has a contrasted background color (e.g., light gray with black text). You could be more subtle and use a slightly larger type size to indicate a division. A small amount of white space between sections would visually distinguish them. The use of titles in dashed boxes is pretty dated looking and there are a lot of ready solutions out on the web. You might also consider an accordion control. Microsoft Outlook does this to divide the favorite folders and mail folders panels. They don't use strict accordion because the user can have both panels open or close one or both.

Here is a boostrap example of a div panel with a title that accomplishes the same thing as a title with a dashed line but looks much more contemporary and is cleaner. You can stack these to create a series of sections. enter image description here

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