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HOW TO Manage many picklists in PETSCII ?



This is a UX-style issue.

The trick in UX is finding how best to manage inherent complexity for the user's benefit.

I'm asking for UX suggestions with a base assumption that this is PETSCII on the X16.  The rest of this post supplies context.


I'm writing a game utility -- a design-your-starship utility for the Traveller RPG.  And I'm doing it in PETSCII on the X16, because that combines two of my favorite things (Traveller and the X16) into one effort.

Starship design is underlaid by a set of line items, each item a component in a ship. Each component is selected from a picklist.  Thus a ship design minimally comes from ~12 picklists.

I want to design an "ergonomic" interface for picking from those picklists.


Define "Ergonomic" 

Ergonomic, I think, has to do with how the picklists are presented to, and accessed by the user.  There is also the consideration of showing "progress" in the ship's design, kind of like ticking off items in a shopping list.

Ergonomic ALSO has a lot to do with colors and empty spaces, and I am TOTALLY up for suggestions there!


Mockup With Data

A picture paints a thousand words.  Here's a working mockup.   On the right of the screen-shot is the "worksheet" with the current state of the ship being designed. 

On the left is where I'm trying to decide what to do.  This mockup shows a "master picklist" of component categories;  presumably the user would select which component to work on, and program control would shift to a form based specifically on that component.

But there are other ways to do it:  for example, the "master picklist" could in fact represent larger areas representing multiple choices -- for example, maybe there's an "engine room" choice that lets you manage drives and fuel, then a "defenses" choice for weapons and shields, and so on.

I've attached that as the second image. 

Something I don't think I can do is allow EVERYTHING to be choosable from one menu.  There are too many options for that -- hence, design has to be broken down into sub-areas.  Maybe it's just a matter of organizing those sub-areas into menus in a rational way that supports the user's thinking process.




Edited by rje
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On 9/20/2022 at 10:30 AM, kelli217 said:



I'm also getting philosophical with how to do user interfaces.   For example, there are different ways of presenting picklists.  Horizontal is compact.  Vertical could be used to indicate a more important choice (maybe).  A scrolling picklist shows extreme economy and can look "cool" (assuming it also isn't annoying though).

There's also the issue of list fatigue.  If everything is a picklist, the user could get tired of seeing lists lists lists.


Hick's Law

"The more choices you present your users with, the longer it will take them to reach a decision."

THAT makes me think that adding some wizard-like functionality at the beginning is a GREAT idea.  AND there's one other implication:


One-thing-per-page.  This suggests I should always focus the content of the screen on the current task: if you are picking a jump drive, then I should only display the list of jump drive options on the page, and leave the clutter out.



PETSCII is Horrible

The reason PETSCII is actually not horrible is in the context.  Since this is a retro-based program on a retro platform, the PETSCII look and feel is actually an asset.

"visually appealing interfaces are better, faster, easier"

Paradoxically, to a small extent, the PETSCII nature of this program is a visual appeal to retro.

Nevertheless, usability is still important.



Edited by rje
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