February 20th, 2011
I’m interested in finding information about “On Object UI”. To me, this term means displaying controls on or near an object after the user has interacted with the object by hovering over or clicking on the object.
For example, in Microsoft Word, after highlighting/selecting some text, a Mini-toolbar appears near the text with choices that the designer thought the user was most likely to want to choose next.
Another example from Word: click on the File Tab from the ribbon (Office 2010) to enter the “backstage” of Office. Then click on the Info Tab. On the right hand side of the screen there is a “Related People” section. If I hover over the author name, or the “Add an author” text, additional controls appear offering functionality related to managing the author information.
This technique seems to work well, but what are the recommended best practices for its use ? What has been learned about this technique that is to be avoided ? Etc. And what is it called ? I know it by “On Object UI”, but a Google search of “On Object UI” finds very little.
If there is another name for it, I would love to know it. If there is not another name for it, then this seems like an area that User Interface Engineering should research and capitalize on by selling that information back to suckers like me.
I think there’s a lot of thinking that’s gone into what you’re talking about. The broad term is pop-up menus, though people also call them context menus or on-hover menus.
Chapter 4 of Bill Scott & Theresa Neil’s Designing Web Interfaces talks about these as Hover-Reveal Contextual Tools. (Their book is a great resource. It should be within reach of everyone doing web design.)
I expected to find something similar in the Yahoo Design Pattern Library, but a quick glance didn’t yield anything.
That’s a start at least. We’ve looked at creating UIE pattern libraries, but it’s a hard challenge, as interfaces are constantly in flux. Just look at the recent patterns emerging from iPad apps and you’ll see that any library would have to double in size. I think they only way to do this would be wikipedia-style, with an army of folks trying to keep up voluntarily. That doesn’t lend itself to the making-money-off-of-suckers model.
Hope that’s helpful.