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How to denote blank in drop-down

I have been going back and forth on this and hallway useability has been inconclusive.

How would you denote a blank or null entry in a drop-down optional field - Country for instance?  They can backspace or delete an existing entry but I wondered about selecting with the mouse.

I prefer something like [None] or [Blank] while others have suggested simply blank space.


I can't find anything definitive and I seem to be experiencing some form of decision-making disorder.


Our team of programmer
Thursday, June 26, 2003

What's the purpose of having a blank selection.  If it's so they can type in their own country, I would suggest [New Country], [Other Country], etc.

Make the blank selection describe what it's there for.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

From my user/programmer merge-
To me, a blank field indicates a null answer, while something like "N/A" or "None" or "Stuff it" indicates a valid selection that indicates none.
From a user's point of view it doesn't matter, IMHO.

On webforms, of course, you'll want

>>>>--------Please Select One--------------<<<<

To space out the drop-down so they're all the same size.


Thursday, June 26, 2003

I prefer [None] or [Not Applicable]  If you wish to store it as a null value, make that a data decision, not an interface one.

If the field is not required, make this the default value and people find traversing easier IMHO.


Mike Gamerland
Thursday, June 26, 2003

I would prefer one set of two radio buttons.

One has a label that says none and makes the drop down disabled, the other activates the drop down.


Thursday, June 26, 2003

I think Windows generally does it by putting an item at the top of the drop down list with the text:


See the Screen Saver drop down list on the Screen Saver tab of your Display Properties for an example. Can't think of any other examples right now.

Big B
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Leaving it as blank space confuses me: is it saying "it's okay to leave this field blank" or is it saying "this field requires you to make a selection, and can't choose a default". All selections should have a description, and the user should explicitly pick one, even if the one they pick is called "[No Country]".

By the way, in what scenario would a person's address not be located in a country?

Nate Silva
Thursday, June 26, 2003

I always use 'none' - no  user has ever asked for an explanation, and that's good, right?.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Thanks, great response.

I've settled on [None].  I now see the wisdom of not leaving it blank even though it conflicts with my misguided sense of aethetics.


In a scenario where they don't want to provide it and I don't require all fields to be completed prior to letting them save.

Our team of programmer
Thursday, June 26, 2003

I think putting in a <none> is the best.

However, often one wants to economize the developer time. Often, I just place instructions on the screen.

Take look at the 2nd screen shot in the following screens.

The listbox and combo boxes simply have instructions that say:

(Leave Blank for all)

Of course, those examples are in ms-access, and you can set the combo box to LIMIT to list. Thus, I don’t waste any coding on checking for bad input from the user. I also don’t waste any coding having to add a “<none>” entry to the listbox (or combo). Of course, in access, those listboxes and combo boxes don’t need any code to be filled. If I have to start writing a ton of code to fill those things, then I might as well use VB!

So, to me the ideal is the least amount of coding, but a decent UI.

If you have to write code to fill the combo or list, then I guess you might as well throw in the code to add a <none>.

In my above examples, then the additional option would be


So, if you must...I would add the "<all>" or whatever context you using the combo in.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Thursday, June 26, 2003

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