Suggestion Drop-Downs Being Confused with Other Fields

By Adrian Smith15 Feb 2019300 words2 mins to read

I always learn things about usability when watching my Dad use a computer. Recently I observed the following:

So as you type a station name into https://www.thetrainline.com/ it makes suggestions. So there are two fields, the "From" and the "To". If you enter text in any of them, a drop-down appears with suggestions. Both these points are obviously completely standard UI practices, what could go wrong?

It turns out if you enter text in the "From" field, and type text which is sufficiently specific to trigger only a single suggestion, visually, that single suggestion in the "From" field lines up visually with the "To" field.

My Dad exclaimed that we wanted to go from Marylebone and not to Marylebone. He was confused because he'd believed he'd typed the text into the "From" field. And given that he typed into the "From" field already he didn't know how to go about being even more persuasive that he really meant the "From" field.

I can think of a number of ways to solve this:

I suspect the real problem is that nobody thought this could be a problem. They envisaged the drop-down visually having lots of entries. And the solution to that is usability testing!

This article was written by Adrian Smith on 15 Feb 2019

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