This question already has an answer here:

I'm wondering about the perennial problem that arises when presenting multiple options, where the user can select none, one, or several options.

Using checkboxes, it's not clear whether a user

  • intentionally selected none of the options
  • or just ignored the question.

Like so:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups
See. I don't know whether you don't like any fruit, or whether you just don't want to tell me.

So if I need to know whether the user answered the question, then it makes sense to include a "none of the above" option at the end of the checkbox list. However, there's not a clearly good way to include a "select none" option in a list of checkboxes.

With a small number of options, radio buttons may be a suitable workaround....


download bmml source

...but with a larger number of options, radio buttons quickly become untenable:


download bmml source

So I was quite excited today to stumble across what might be a solution to the problem—a hybrid checkbox/radio control:


download bmml source

When the radio button is selected, the checkboxes become deselected, and when the checkboxes are selected, the radio becomes deselected.

At first glance, this looks like a great solution...but before I start adopting it, I want to check if it may confuse people. Perhaps they view the separate shapes as corresponding with separate questions; or perhaps they don't understand why clicking on some things (but not just any thing) may cause others to become deselected; or perhaps they don't distinguish between checkboxes and radio buttons at all and they're slowed down by wondering why one of the buttons is a different shape from the others.

Has user testing found that this control is commonly understood? Are there particular demographics or psychographics that find this hybrid control problematic?

marked as duplicate by JohnGB Jul 15 '15 at 11:13

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 3
    Users can still leave this hybrid blank. If the problem is users who leave a question blank, then why not make the choice required? (The code can handle illogical responses like Banana and None in the same set.) I'm interested to see what answer you get, because I think large swaths of people do not understand the difference between the "round ones" and the "square ones" when they encounter them. A mixture might also skew the responses by drawing attention to itself. – JeromeR Jul 15 '15 at 5:04
  • This is a question that pops up so many times. So you get multiple references to very similar questions when searching for it. I think this one (ux.stackexchange.com/questions/67609/…) contains the best set of answers. That's why I vote to close. – Bart Gijssens Jul 15 '15 at 9:52
  • @JohnGB, I don't think this is a duplicate. (You'll notice I already linked to the question that you've marked as a duplicate when asking my question.) My question is not what the best way to add a "none of the above" option to a list of checkboxes is, but rather whether users commonly understand the new control I came across yesterday that combines a radio button with a list of checkboxes. – Graham Herrli Jul 15 '15 at 15:41
  • @JeromeR, that this control can still be left blank is a good point. But a key difference is that it's possible to validate against a blank state here, whereas on a plain list of checkboxes it's not possible to validate against a blank state (because no selection may mean "none of these"). – Graham Herrli Jul 15 '15 at 15:44
  • 1
    @GrahamHerrli You said that you wanted to know whether users understand a control that you came across yesterday. The answer to this will be primarily opinion based with little objectivity in it. If you were proposing a problem for which this was a possible solution, then answers could go into solutions for the problem rather than "Yes, they get it", or "No, they don't" type arguments. – JohnGB Jul 16 '15 at 2:07

I can't answer your direct question as to whether or not mixing radios and checkboxes in one list has any conclusive testing data. But I will say it's not something I've seen.

I'd suggest considering some alternatives.

Visually separate the 'none of the above' checkbox from the rest

Select the fruit you like:
[ ] apples
[ ] bananas
[ ] oranges
[ ] none of the above

Use radio buttons with conditional checkboxes shown when applicable

Default view:

Do you like fruit?
( ) yes
( ) no

If 'yes' is selected:

Do you like fruit?
(•) yes

    Please select your favorite(s):
    [ ] apples
    [ ] bananas
    [ ] oranges

( ) no
  • 2
    I think either of these are decent solutions. I prefer, where it is possible, the second solution, because it breaks it down into two smaller decisions for the user. (Additionally, you get to find out if they like fruit at all... rather than only if they like any of the offered alternative fruits.) – David Jul 15 '15 at 9:44
  • HEY! MY FAVOURITE FRUIT ARE PEARS AND STRAWBERRIES! Joking aside, you should say "do you like any of the following fruit." – Level River St Jul 15 '15 at 10:26
  • -1 This doesn't answer my question (which is whether this hybrid checkbox/radio control makes sense). This answer is a duplicate of the answers to the Adding a “none of the above” option to a list of checkboxes question that I linked to when asking my question. – Graham Herrli Jul 15 '15 at 15:46
  • 1
    @GrahamHerrli you may be the only one that can answer it. Build it, then test it and see what happens. – DA01 Jul 15 '15 at 16:10
  • @DA01, there are several questions on this site asking whether various patterns are commonly understood by users, including hamburger menus, browser back buttons, and HTML multiple-selection boxes. If a hybrid checkbox/radio list is an existing pattern, can you clarify why you think I'm uniquely suited to determine whether it's understood? – Graham Herrli Jul 15 '15 at 18:28
  • I would like to see checkbox where i can select multiple items (fruits). Everyone loves fruits and they might love more than 1 or 2 fruits. So, I prefer checkbox.
  • Radio buttons are used to get a single answer rather than multiple (Like yes/no, close ended questions).
  • -1 This doesn't answer my question (which is whether this hybrid checkbox/radio control makes sense). Your answer just addresses how checkboxes and radios are used more generally, but does not say whether mixing the two in one list like this has been shown to confuse or not confuse users. – Graham Herrli Jul 15 '15 at 15:50

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