Choosing from Along a Continuum with Sliders

I've noticed recently how easy sliders make it for me to choose from a set of options that lie on a continuum. Kayak.com (in DHTML) and MyRatePlan.com(in Flash) provide two particularly nice examples that help me choose options quickly using sliders. They even use nifty dynamic effects to display chosen flights or cellphones based on where my sliders are at.

Sliders would be an especially good mechanism for helping users quickly choose a time. For example, when testing out the beta for Trumba, an online calendar application, I got annoyed by all the dropdowns and the perceived time it would take to choose a time for my test appointment:

Dropdowns are the Excel of interface elements: when you see them, you know you have serious tabbing or mouse clicking to do. Sliders are a pleasingly zippy alternative.

Update: Just found Amazon's Diamond Search, which uses a combination of sliders and Ajax to pick the perfect best friend for your girl.

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Comments (Post | Latest)

1. Bill Mill said on May 15 2005:

While it may be true for most people that sliders are more convenient than drop-downs, I don't think they are. In the case above, I'd click on the month drop-down, type "M" twice (march, then may), hit tab, type "14", hit tab, type "2005" (If it wasn't selected already), hit tab twice, and so on. I find that I can buzz through drop-down boxes easily with the keyboard.

With sliders, I'd have to mouse to all of them and change them manually; much less convenient for me. The best type of interface for a calendar app is to have a little dhtml calendar pop up where you can click the day you want. I've seen them, but I can't remember where. As for the time, maybe a pop-up clock of some sort? I've never seen one, but it could be pretty cool, I think.

Peace
Bill Mill

2. kareem said on May 15 2005:

Hi Bill-

I agree with you that popup calendars are the best method for calendar selection (Expedia and Kayak.com do it well--on Firefox, it pops up when you give the input box focus.) Keep in mind, though, that your keyboard ninja skills move you out of the realm of the average user. It's switching input modes from keyboard to mouse that cause cognitive overhead, so any mechanism to keep a user in one mode or the other is optimal.

And, funny that you mention, but I was thinking the same thing about a popup clock.

Maybe sliders for time wasn't the greatest example, but the larger point remains: I've seen them be really effective at helping quickly filter a large list. Check Kayak.com to see what I mean.

k.

3. Bill Mill said on May 16 2005:

> Keep in mind, though, that your keyboard ninja

> skills move you out of the realm of the average

>user.


Yeah, I understand, just wanted to point out that it's not always true - expert users may prefer drop-downs.

When I find sliders very useful is generally picking off a very large number line, where the pick doesn't need to be 100% accurate. For example, the slider I use to pick the amount of my bet in my online poker app is very handy, and allows me to mentally try out lots of different bets very quickly.

4. RParker said on Jan 5 2007:

myrateplan.com's interface for choosing a cell phone sucks tremendously. It's so slow and bloated, I would never use it to shop for a phone, and I never could get the slider to work.

About

Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

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