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Use Dropdowns, Save Puppies

Thursday 1 July, 2004 (11:34AM GMT)

Yoda Zeldman has been explaining how he hates dropdowns more passionately than old mouldy bitter font-tag pie.
"They make me SICK" says Jay-Z (I'm paraphrasing a bit).

His comments come at the same time as he publishes a new ALA article on dropdowns, based on the original incarnation of Suckerfish Dropdowns.

Contradiction? No. His point is that although he despises them with every ounce of his being, they're a web design reality, a popular one at that, and if someone's going to have to make a web page that utilises them, they might as well apply the technique in the best possible way.

It's a shame that so many of the comments on the article aren't about the article at all, but rather about the value of dropdowns as a whole and the usability and accessibility problems associated with them. The same happened when the original Suckerfish Dropdowns article went up.

Even if we ("we" being web designers) believe that dropdowns are a bad idea and we have sound, informed, logical reasons for reaching that conclusion, in business we are often confronted with clients or project managers whose logic boils down to "yeah, but I like 'em". We can intelligently argue for hours, carefully explaining their flaws, but even an attentive client/project manager/whoever, nodding in apparent agreement will often respond with "yeah... but I like 'em".

I don't tend to use dropdowns if I have a choice, but there have been times when I've been forced to use the technique ("do it or the puppy dies, Griffiths"). So I use them. To be honest, this doesn't erk me half as much as using frames, for example ("stuff the puppy"), but whenever I apply anything, whether I want to do it or not (makes no difference, really), I want to do it in the best possible way. That's where Suckerfish comes into play for dropdowns.

The very simple point to all of this is that some people like 'em. They're a reality. Deal with it. No puppies need to die.


Comment 1

"It's a shame that so many of the comments ... about the value of dropdowns as a whole and the usability and accessibility problems associated with them. "

I think that's a good thing! Having Power to Do, and knowing when to Do. Sounds like a "yoda" thing to me.

So said Bill Creswell on Thursday 1 July, 2004 at 11:48AM GMT.

Comment 2

I agree that discussion over the use of dropdowns is an important one, but I don't think that the comments area for the ALA article is the right place for it.

So said Patrick on Thursday 1 July, 2004 at 11:53AM GMT.

Comment 3

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm 1 of the people who didn't keep on topic. I hope that I didn't cause much disruption or problems. I didn't realize that I was off-topic. Sorry about that. I thought that that was the appropriate place to comment on anything that was said by Jeffrey Zeldmen and/or the author. I'll try to keep focused.

For what it's worth, I hate it when people go off-topic, so I'm very willing to hold back. Maybe I'll just email them privately next time, if there is any doubt. Fortunately, someone is able to delete posts to save the rest of us some reading.

So said Eugene T.S. Wong on Friday 2 July, 2004 at 7:29PM GMT.

Comment 4

I have the same problem with staying on topic. I used to make heavy use of dropdowns...but then I gave up. In my new history website redesign (due to be released when I get back from Ireland) I use simple definition lists and unordered lists for navigation, like ALA uses.

So said Dante on Sunday 4 July, 2004 at 5:30PM GMT.

Comment 5

unfortunately, suckerfish dropdowns don't seem to work in safari, or ... i'm going to see now... in mac IE 5.2. yeah, that could be a problem

So said on Wednesday 14 July, 2004 at 9:32PM GMT.

Comment 6

In fact, the thing is not that the designers, or managers, or clieans may like or don't like dropdowns. While making a site it is important to think about the users� preferences, and most users do find dropdowns the most convenient.

So said Helen, web-designer on Wednesday 21 July, 2004 at 4:16PM GMT.

Comment 7


They do? I think that's a common mistake. Just because you (as a designer) can fit a lot into them and they look decent when they are styled with CSS. A lot of people in fact don't know how to use dropdowns. The more complex it gets, the more likely they will fail. I know, "complex".

But in anyway. Dropdowns also hide "content" from the users. You have to click to see, how convenient is that?

So said till on Saturday 5 February, 2005 at 5:09PM GMT.

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