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Control Proximity Revisited, Reemphasized

Or, "Put It Near" May 2, 2009

Put things as close to their point of relevance or action as possible. In a previous article the principle was noted for 'controls' such as buttons and links. In this article, I show that it applies to information as well.

Looks like it was way back in 2005 that I posted an article about control proximity explaining that buttons and links should be as close as possible to the item on which they act. In this B&A I have an example of how the same applies with information, in this case, text in a table.

I used to create a wiki in seconds, but had trouble with its invitations... inconveniencing not just myself by the VP of my company, who I'd tried inviting. Doncha hate when that happens? I easily used the invite function, and it said "Sent successfully..." right on that page. I wanted to actually see it in some listing before checking with the VP whether he got it. But when I looked in the Sent Invitations page it didn't list... just the 4 prior invites appeared:

Presumably unrelated, the VP didn't get the invitation, probably because of spam filtering, and I was finally getting around to diagnosing the situation a few days later. Can you see the problem? They have text at the top to explain that there's a lag time. I don't ever recall seeing that text, until days later when I wanted to invite another person. The problem is that:

1) They put data (the 'one invitation' item) into an area and format that does not look like data. The text at the top connotes instructional information. Presumably it was there the first time I looked at the page, and I had no reason to read "instructions."

2) They don't put the data at the point where the data pertains... in the table. If the data has a state, use the Status column. If the state is exceptional, call it out with color coding:

Now go do what I said on your site.

I haven't come across this principle, control proximity, out there in the literature or heuristics much. Does someone else get the credit? Let me know so I can credit the proper source. —


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen

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