Select Lists Are the Devil.

by amy

“You solve a problem with a select list. Now you have TWO problems.”

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Select lists are bad because:

  • they bury options
  • their keyboard controls are usually non-deterministic
  • they require precision mouse movement
  • they are slow & require extra steps (Click. Scroll. Mouse over. Release.)
  • they lead to satisficing

But select lists that force you to hum the alphabet to move forward? Those are the WORST.

I hate select lists with the pyretic flume of a thousand suns. I do my damnedest to design software that has no select lists ever.

Alternatives include:

  • custom form widgets that do autocomplete + list
  • custom clickable list (all broken out)
  • radio buttons

For this particular example… every other site on the internet has a select list that’s simply a list of countries. They see no need to break them down by arbitrary letter ranges. It’s not great — it is, after all, still a select list — but you know what?

This would be much better as an autocomplete text field.

But if you can’t avoid the horrible little goblins, at least put in the tiniest bit of effort to reduce the kind of cognitive load that sends you spiraling back to preschool singing circles:

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What’s the excuse for not including those extra letters? Saving a couple bits?