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I have a client that wants to have their select menus open by default. In other words, for them to have a listbox behavior that is typically used for selecting multiple items, despite the fact that only one item is selectable.

Instead of this:

select menu

To use this:

listbox

I initially thought that he should switch them to select boxes since they are far more commonplace, but then I thought about the UX behind opened select boxes:

  • The user is saved a click since they don't have to open it.
  • Sloppy clickers can't accidentally click out of the menu and close it.

I can't think of any reason not to use it unless there are many of them on the same page, in which case it could clutter the form with too much text.

  • I should have mentioned that their list has 100+ choices. – Nathron Oct 8 '14 at 5:06
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The second is uncommon, and a better alternative would be radio controls, as these are probably more familiar to users.

radio selection

The first works best where space is limited, or you just want to hide the un-chosen options to remove visual noise for the user when they are reviewing their choice.

e.g. My favourite care is a [Volvo] because it is [spacious].

This reads much easier without the visual clutter.

My suggestion is to use radio selection if there is only one choice visible on the display, otherwise use drop down so that once the user has made a choice for the first drop down, they will not be distracted by it when making further choices.

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Sometimes, UX decisions are very simple. Not always there has to be some big philosophy behind it. And simple designs are the best designs :)

Your case is one of them. Keep the select closed if it is taking too much space or if there are multiple select options. Also you can see, what looks better(which goes with your overall design) on your page. The open select dropdown or closed one& choose accordingly.

I favor closed select dropdown

There is a reason select's are default closed. Selects are generally used for long list of options out of which the user has to select one. Showing them open will occupy much of space. If you do have a long list of car brands then go with closed dropdown. But if it's just a matter of saving 1 click for the user (and the list is short), then go with radio boxes (I don't prefer)

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