Auto-size buttons?

Richard Gaskin ambassador at fourthworld.com
Sat Dec 28 14:22:01 EST 2002


Mark Swindell wrote:

> I really think this would be a nice property to have built into the button
> properties palette...

Scott's pretty OCD about such things.  The absence of the property is likely
(though I'm hoping Scott will step in and clarify) because it seems an
"unsanctioned" behavior.

All three of the relevant HIGs (Win, Mac 8-9, OS X) use nearly the same
language to discuss the sizing of poup-menus (from the Classic HIG at
<http://developer.apple.com/techpubs/mac/HIGOS8Guide/thig-14.html#HEADING14-
0>):

   The width of the pop-up button's menu should be
   equal to or larger than the full width of the
   largest text portion of the button.

While they don't specifically recommend against dynamic resizing of popups,
the issue's absence from the specs suggests the OS designers are expecting
fixed-width controls.

I recall earlier versions of SuperCard using dynamically-resizing popups, so
I went back to the original Mac HIG (pre-OS 8) to see what it suggests.
Again, nada.

There was one interesting point made in the original Mac HIG that is
relevant:  they stress repeatedly in that section (p82 if your library
contains such history books) that the most important visual aspect of popup
menu is that they appear to be one control whether open or closed.  They
suggest it's okay to have a popup menu be larger than the control that opens
it (seemingly blessing the practice of dynamic resizing), but stress that
the best solution is to have the menu be the same size as the control
(giving weight to fixed-width).

But of course the HIGs are merely "guidelines" and not "laws".  Until Apple
reinstates its UI research team the community is best served by questioning
their design specs (where would OS X -- particularly the Finder -- be if not
for the outcry of early seed shops?).  Specs substantiated by research
should stand, all others should be considered in flux.  And while MS has one
of the most well-funded UI research efforts in the world (they even have a
few copies of the MC-based HyperRESEARCH I develop, which they use for user
testing and focus groups), some of their implementations are hampered by
copyright law in spite of research findings (e.g., placement of the menu bar
vs. Fitts' Law).

So we can take this decision back to basics:  what compelling benefits for
the user are there with dynamically-resized popup vs. fixed-width popups?
 
-- 
 Richard Gaskin 
 Fourth World Media Corporation
 Developer of WebMerge 2.1: Publish any database on any site
 ___________________________________________________________
 Ambassador at FourthWorld.com       http://www.FourthWorld.com
 Tel: 323-225-3717                       AIM: FourthWorldInc




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