I have an application where the user can add a task and set a priority using a combo box. e.g. Low, Medium, High.

When this task is created and displayed to the user they see the priority as a badge. e.g. a high priority task will have a red background.

When the user is adding a task should we also colour the items in the combo box to match?

2 Answers 2


Drop down is not the right choice for you.

I don't think combo-box is the right control at first place here for a simple reason.

Color coding needs to be explained

You can't assume that your used will understand the logic behind these color coding. For all you know, he might take read red color as a sign for something that is unavailable.

Not much info can be given in a dropdown item

I guess the reason behind putting colors was to communicate the urgency and the expected turn-around time for these priority-type. I guess an example of the same would help, but you cannot add a lot of information in a drop-down without cluttering it.

What you should do?

1) Show three radio buttons Low, Medium and High right adjacent to each other.

2) When user select one of them, highlight them and show a message just below it to give more insights about the certain attributes of the priority such as

High priority tasks are expected to be solved within 24 hours

3) Put a checkbox just below this message with label

Don't show this tooltip again.

If user selects this, don't show these messages again.


Short Answer: Yeah that works. But if you haven't, I'd encourage you to explore other options.

Long Answer: I don't think a yes/no answer will qualify what your doing as a good idea. Anything that solves the problem is effectively a good idea. But it might be worth exploring some other questions and ideas:

  • Is your app currently cluttered? If you've got a ton of content or the process of adding a task has a lot of steps, the goal would be to reduce friction. The idea of a select box may still work, but instead of labels maybe icons or pictures would do the trick (i.e. the common use of exclamation points to indicate priority: (!) (!!) (!!!))
  • What other actions does the user need to take? When a user adds a task, are they clicking and setting a bunch of options? If that's the case, does the current way of selecting a priority make sense and keep users' frustration low? Another thing to consider is whether the selection harmonizes with the rest of the user flow or disrupts it somehow; from both a visual and usability standpoint it needs to make sense and fit in with everything else.
  • Are select boxes optimal? Naturally a slider or checkbox wouldn't work out here, but have you considered a dropdown? Or like I suggested above, replacing labels with imagery or some combination?

Basically, you have options when considering how to approach it and there are a few pros and cons to consider in each case. For example, select/combo boxes have the benefit of limiting the user to one option and dropdowns have the slight downside of adding an extra action (+1 click/tap). If your time/budget allow, it would be worth doing some A/B testing to see what users prefer and what helps you meet your own goals as far as getting the user to successfully perform actions and repeat them with ease. Hope some of that helps!

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