I am building an Windows Forms application that will have to select a single style of a particular device, but each style has a variety of unrelated configuration options that must be chosen. The options will configure a particular data transmission device.

I created somewhat of a mockup of what I'm initially thinking. In this model, selecting a radio button on the left will select the pane on the right. It will basically work like tab controls, except I need to make it clear than only the actively visible 'tab' is important, and the others are to be ignored.

Each tab has items that are fundamentally unrelated to any items on any other panes.


I considered having all options visible, with only the fields relevant to the selected radio button enabled, but I think that will be too busy and frightening for many users.

The concept is kind of similar to how when setting up PuTTY, you select your connection type, and only one is used once the program is running, but each type has a variety of configuration settings specific to only a particular connection type. While the way putty does it works fine for people like us, that would be way too confusing for the typical users of this application.

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Is there a better alternative to this kind of model?

2 Answers 2


One common approach is to put the radio selection above everything else vertically, then change the other controls below when the radio button is changed. Because the radio selection is above everything, it is okay to alter the elements beneath it.

If the radio buttons are on the left side like in the provided mockup, however, it is less clear that they are "first." This creates a risk of users filling out the right fields first and then losing work after later selecting the left-side radio option.


The eye movement of a user is very important. Normally users read from top to bottom , left to right. Consider that when designing the form.

The flow of the eyes will be from top to bottom. So it is a basic practice to put the fields in order. In your design radio buttons go on the left. There is no clear order which one comes first.

Do not confuse the user , stick to the basics.

Let the user know which field is to be selected first by putting the radio buttons horizontally on top.

In a different section below that , you can change the controls accordingly.

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