We have a UI to allocate resource: Resource Allocation UI: Checkbox, Resource Name, Amount textbox, X remaining

In the UI, users must check a box to enable the textbox. They can then enter any integer between 1 and the amount remaining. If the box is checked, the user must enter a number to save the form.

It's fairly common for the Remaining number to be 1, meaning if they check the box, they would have to enter the number 1 or uncheck the box to submit the form.

In situations where there are more than 1 remaining, there isn't a good way to guess what number they might want.

My question is, does it make sense to auto-fill with the number 1 when:

  1. There is only one item remaining (since it's the only option)
  2. When there are multiple items remaining (to be consistent)

Or, alternatively, would a different input method (number picker, dropdown) with a default of 1 be better? The max numbers are most frequently small, like 1-3, but can be larger, like 25 or 50.

1 Answer 1


By auto-selecting if there's just one option you make things significantly easier for your user.

Consider the comparison (which focus on one selection):

No Pre-selection, text box

  1. User clicks checkbox
  2. Moves across to text box
  3. Enters some value
  4. Validation passes / fails
  5. Form is submitted

No Pre-selection, dropdown

  1. User clicks checkbox
  2. Moves across to dropdown
  3. Opens dropdown
  4. Realises there's only one option
  5. Selects it anyway
  6. Form is submitted


  1. User clicks checkbox
  2. Message appears
  3. Form is submitted

Your interface does include a message, which is good, why not also consider drawing attention to this message on click, maybe by highlighting it, making it flicker or similar at the same time as pre-filling the field. This way the system reaction is directly related to the user action and the message is more likely to be noticed

To keep it consistent pre-fill the text box with the message and leave the text box blank if there is no reasonable way of guessing the number. Along with the messages this should be clear to the user. You could also re-enforce this process by focusing on the text box if user input is required.

It's perfectly reasonable in UX to make well educated guesses and use intelligent defaults.

  • I'm not sure what you mean by "Message appears". The text "X remaining" is always shown next to the textbox, and I'm talking about automatically putting the number 1 in the textbox. Are you suggesting that when the box is autofilled, additional text be shown?
    – AlannaRose
    Mar 3, 2015 at 19:08
  • @AlannaRose your current design does cover this point, though you could also flash the message or draw attention to it on click in some other way to re-enforce
    – Toni Leigh
    Mar 3, 2015 at 19:09
  • I like the idea of moving focus to the textbox when there's no good suggestion, thanks! It helps with my concern about lack of consistency that made me hesitant to implement the auto fill when there was only one left by making it more clear that there's another action necessary.
    – AlannaRose
    Mar 4, 2015 at 1:45
  • @AlannaRose edited to take into account message in original design
    – Toni Leigh
    Mar 4, 2015 at 7:36

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