Random Thoughts

Why Some Websites Favor Drop-Down Menus Instead of User-Editable Text Boxes

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Today, I was asked a web dev (website developer) question by someone from Reddit. To quote the user,” I was just on a skincare website, and I wanted to take the skin quiz for kicks. The second question was asking for my birthday… I would like to know why, by this time in the Internet universe, ALL prompts asking for a specific date are not set up so one can type the date. Who wants to scroll through a couple of decades or more month by month?! I’m pretty new to Reddit, so I’m not so sure this is the best category to post in, but it made sense to me. I hope someone has an answer to my overwhelming confusion about this matter.”

First, I completely understand how annoying all of the different methods of website data entry are. While a uniform method of selecting or submitting info would be ideal, what makes the online world so remarkable is the artistic freedom to customize anything and everything about it.

Design

For the issue this user is describing, it could very well just be a design option. The site’s website developer might be fond of a specific method of data entry, their website’s template might make that method default (such as a theme in WordPress), or they could be using a plugin for that specific quiz (which only offers a drop-down menu).

User Error

However, favoring a drop-down menu instead of a user-editable text box is probably due to attempting to prevent user error. Relying on the everyday website visitor to correctly populate the fields required for a date is not recommended. Will they use the proper format? Spell out the months? Add/not add commas? Who knows?

Algorithms

Furthermore, those internet quizzes rely on specific answers to apply to their algorithm to determine an answer. If you answer A and B within their acceptable fields, but then in C you type May 5, 2019, instead of 5/5/2019 (like the quiz wanted), the algorithm will not work without some human (or A.I.) intervention.

Spam/Malicious Content

Finally, as I run three websites, reducing the chances for a user to enter spam comments or malicious links is always supported by only allowing them to use a drop-down menu. For every user-editable text box one includes on their website, you open up another doorway for hazardous links, hateful comments, or spam/advertising. While anti-spam apps such as Askimet Anti-Spam (which I use), can scan your comments and contact form submissions for malicious content, they do not guarantee that any links or content submitted on your website will be safe and free of advertisements or spam.

So, next time you are taking a quiz to determine which Kardashian you are and then become annoyed at the length of time it takes, hopefully, you will now better understand the science behind it.

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