Putting the pieces together

Select boxes Vs Radio Buttons

The Select Boxes vs Radio Buttons dillema has perplexed the developers and designers since the stone age. When does one use a Select Box and when does one use a Radio Button? Both the radio button, and the select box (without the multiple option) force the user to choose only a single response (i.e. “yes” or “no”).

In choosing between Select Boxes and Radio Buttons, consider the following points:

  • Is the user allowed to select more than one option? - If so then use checkboxes (not radio buttons), and possibly Select Boxes (with the multiple option on)
  • Context - What standard is the rest of the site using? - Lean towards standards where practical.
  • Are there a lot of options to choose from, i.e. more then 4? - Excessive amounts of Radio Buttons produce clutter and take up screen real estate.
  • Are the controls dynamically populated? i.e. from a database or webservice? - In some circumstances it might be hard to know how many options a database will put into a Radio Button list, and this may change over time as databases are updated. If you don't know how many there will be now and in the future, then refer to the previous point.

If Radio Buttons or Select Boxes (without the multiple option) are used, the user can not choose more than a single answer. The second choice will always deselect the first one. (p.s. a check box will let the user choose one or several options without any being deselected.)

Examples of where to use Select Boxes:

  • List of countries
  • Lists of 4 or more options

Examples of where to use Radio Buttons:

  • Yes or No questions
  • Lists of less than 4 options