Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons (27 Sep 2004)
Am I just being picky when I insist on the correct use of checkboxes and radio buttons? No. There are good usability reasons to follow GUI standards and use the controls correctly.
Most important, following design standards enhances users' ability to predict what a control will do and how they'll operate it. When they see a list of checkboxes, users know that they can select multiple options. When they see a list of radio buttons, they know that they can only select one. (Of course, not every user knows this, but many do, especially since this has been a design standard since 1984.)
Because many people know how to operate standard GUI widgets, employing these design elements correctly enhances users' sense of mastery over technology. Conversely, violating the standards makes the user interface feel brittle -- as if anything can happen without warning. Say, for example, that you assume you can click on a radio button without any immediate impact, and can thus consider your choices after making a selection but before hitting "OK." In such a case, it's jarring when a website violates this standard and unexpectedly moves you to the next page once you enter a selection. Worse, it makes you fear what may happen as you work with forms elsewhere on the site.
Article URL: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20040927.html
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