Actual behavior

down goes right

Expected behavior

down goes down

It looks more obvious to me and less confusing. I guess it can save some time as well, having two paths to navigate on the tabs panel.

  • How hard would it be to arrange suggestions in a 1 3 5, 2 4 6 manner?
    – badp
    Aug 9, 2011 at 19:50
  • 1
    Sad that this got declined. Aug 18, 2011 at 17:55
  • Actually, this makes sense. I can see why it got declined. Aug 30, 2011 at 18:40

4 Answers 4


So, collecting some feedback (the comment from bad π, my own opinion, and the comment from cwallenpoole), this could be the right way of moving with the down key:

enter image description here

The last arrow (from the last cell to the first one) is optional here (now it blocks when at the end).

The up-arrow would go in the inverse direction, of course.

I'm not sure if it is sensible to also map the left-right arrows to horizontal movement - I think, now they are moving in the text field.

  • I really think this is the best idea. Aug 10, 2011 at 17:13
  • Seems to be the easiest way to solve the 'wrong direction' issue. Nice idea.
    – BrunoLM
    Aug 10, 2011 at 19:00

I'll agree that on its own, especially since there are only at most 6 cells, it does have a more intuitive feel to have up move up and not left, and down move down and not right in this layout. This feels especially pronounced when using the edit tags functionality.

But, at the same time, in Google, when I want to move between auto-completes, the down arrow is how I will move between selections. Because I'm thinking of it as an auto-complete (and not a grid layout) exclusive use of the down arrow "feels" more intuitive in that context. When creating a question, the "it feels like auto-complete", to me, at least, becomes more prominent.

Also, despite its layout, ideologically, this is really a <select>. It might be best to keep it functioning that way.

Personally, if I were king of the SE, I'd stet. It does not cause substantial cognitive dissonance when thought about, and it follows (at least in one sense) a very common UI already in place.


(This originally started a comment, but it seems important enough to append to the answer)

This actually goes to the question of ease of use vs. intuition. The easiest motion for a person is to continually hit the same button and possibly another. The more expected UI is to require the person to (probably) use 2 buttons and then make them need up to 4 to get full motion.

I prefer one button over two because I find it easier and, honestly, I like my UI as easy as possible even if that sacrifices a more intuitive interface. I'll only find an interface strange perhaps once or twice and then I'll adapt. I'll find a less easy interface less easy every single time I use it.

  • 1
    Google auto-complete only has one column. I don't see the comparison. Up is up and down is down on Google. Having the same here would make sense. Having left and right represent left and right would also make sense.
    – user154510
    Aug 9, 2011 at 18:20
  • @Matthew I'll admit to it being inconsistent, but when I go to add a tag to a question, I instinctually hit "down" repeatedly. It takes less thought and less motion to act that way. I equate it to Google because that is exactly the same motion, despite the different layout. Aug 9, 2011 at 18:26
  • 1
    Ah, that makes more sense. But I still disagree :P
    – user154510
    Aug 9, 2011 at 18:31
  • @Matthew I expect that some will. So it goes. I believe in my answer. Aug 9, 2011 at 18:32
  • The up/down keys could go column-wise through the whole-list, instead of line-wise. You would still have the whole list reachable per only one key. Aug 10, 2011 at 16:50
  • @Paulo Wow. Good point. Hadn't thought about that. Aug 10, 2011 at 16:51
  • @cwallenpoole: Actually, the idea is from bad π's comment on the question. Aug 10, 2011 at 16:56
  • @Paulo (I hadn't understood the comment to mean what you suggested) I'll go ahead and state that such an approach could satisfy both the concerns of the OP and my concerns as well. You should make that comment an answer. I'd vote for it. Aug 10, 2011 at 16:59
  • @cwallenpoole: done. Aug 10, 2011 at 17:12

Pressing down and seeing it move right is definitely not the expected response. Pressing down (and up) as a means to select from an auto-complete dialog is expected.

When pressing the down arrow could the selection move down and upon reaching the bottom return to the top of the next column (top to bottom, left to right).


Two-dimensional navigation here would be complex and confusing. I think Paulo's screenshot is a perfect example of why.

We also want to emphasize the fact that the list is ordered; if you pressed and it went to item #4 on the list instead of #2, that makes no sense.

Thus, like the mouse wheel on your mouse, we lock to 1 axis. Press or and you get the same result -- moving to the next item in the list, in order.

  • 2
    On the contrary, personally I find it very confusing that the down key doesn't take me down to the tag I want. One question: Why do you want to emphasize that the list is ordered? Aug 11, 2011 at 9:21
  • 3
    If I look at this (never used it, though), my first assumption is that it is a Grid, not a List. Therefor Down would take into the second line and would do nothing afterwards. Aug 11, 2011 at 9:39

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