WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department

Mayhew's Book 1992 (chapt. 4)

Designing Menu Systems

Menu structure

  • Match menu structure to task structure

  • Provide users with an easy way to tailor menu structure to task structure.

  • Minimize menu hierarchy depth at the expense of breadth.

  • On full-screen text menus, present menu choices vertically.

  • Consider pie menus for one- or two-level mouse-driven menu hierarchies with short menu choice lists, especially when the choices lend themselves well to a circular, pie format.

  • Choosing graying out (or even deletion) of inactive menu items: depends on user experience and input device. {but try to maintain consistency}

  • Create logical, distinctive, and mutually exclusive semantic categories with clear meaning.

  • Menu choice labels should be brief, consistent in grammatical style and placement, and matched with corresponding menu titles.

  • Consider menu choice descriptors if choice labels may not be clear and unambiguous. (Look-ahead, Microhelp, Tool-tips)

Menu choice ordering

  • Order choice labels according to:
    • convention;
    • frequency of use;
    • order of use;
    • categorical or function groups; and/or
    • alphabetical order;
    depending on the user and task variables.

Menu choice selection

  • On keyboard-driven menu systems:
    • Cursor selection is acceptable for shorter menus, especially if use is expected to be casual.
    • For longer menus and/or for high-frequency users, mnemonically lettered section codes are preferred if practical.

  • On pointer-driven (e.g., mouse) interfaces, providing a pointer cursor selection mechanism is recommended.

  • Provide menu selection defaults when possible.

  • Distinguish between "Choose one" and "Choose many" menus.

  • Provide menu selection feedback.

Menu invocation

  • Reserve pop-up or user-invoked menus for high-frequency users and situations where screen real-estate is scarce. Permanent menus are preferred.

Menu navigation

  • Establish conventions for menu design and apply them consistently on all menu screens within a system.

  • Consider the use of context labels, menu maps, and place markers as navigation aids in complex menu systems.

  • Consider the use of direct access through type-ahead, menu screen names, and user-created macros to facilitate navigation for expert users.

  • Facilitate backward navigation.

[Return to the WPI Homepage] [Return to the CS Homepage]

dcb at cs wpi edu / Fri Apr 7 10:53:36 2017