Been having problems with deciding on the best user interface for a
particular type of form input (for an intranet application).

When we have a list of values from which a user can select one or more
items, there are a couple of choices.
- we can use checkboxes, which is nice and easy for (lets say) up to
15 options, starts to get a bit clunky up to 25 and just gets ugly
from then on.
- we can use a multiple select list, which operates reasonably well up
to quite a large number of choices, but gets a bit of negative
feedback from users who don't find it intuitive. The whole modifier
key thing throws people and they can't tell what's been selected
without scrolling right through the list (what a nightmare that would
be on a screenreader!).

AFAIK, the multi-select is the *right* way to go, but when we're
talking about your larger lists (200+ items) I agree that it is next
to impossible to use - scrolling increments become tiny and you can't
tell what's been selected at a glance (as all selections may be
outside the viewport of the form control).

We recently trialled something like this
(an array of checkboxes styled to look like a big multi select), but
although I was pretty happy with the style and feel of it, the user
testing canned it... they'd rather sort through a huge array of
hundreds of checkboxes (!). At least they can see at a (sort of)
glance, what has been selected.

In the end, I had to admit a partial defeat. Standard HTML elements
are just not set up for this scale of information. Sticking to my
roots, however, I'm looking for some sort of 'progressive enhancement'
javascript that will allow me to use the multiple select as the basis
for a more user friendly representation.

So, any thoughts? either on the problem, or suggested solutions / UI
libraries / examples.

Andrew Harris

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