Alertbox: Tabs, Used Right

Yuji Shinozaki ys2n at
Tue Sep 18 18:23:36 UTC 2007

On Sep 17, 2007, at 4:29 PM, Paul Zablosky wrote:
> What Nielsen says of his example is that "It uses tabs to alternate  
> between views within the same context".  This is somewhat imprecise  
> language, since it is not clear what he means by "context", but I  
> agree with him about the Amazon site.  There, the user selects a  
> tab to go from the public banner display to the personalized  
> display through a login -- a context change if there ever was one

Yes, his language about "views" and "context" are vague, but I think  
that that vagueness is not totally unintentional as it does seem to  
apply to a wide-range of situations.  But I think it is clear that a  
worksite is a different context.

That said, I think it is 6. where Sakai falls down the most (and  

6. unselected tabs are clearly visible

To me, that is because tabs have a natural scaling.  I couldn't tell  
you precisely what that scale is, but I would hazard to guess 2-6  
items.  Beyond that (and below that, actually) tabs fall down.  This  
clearly manifests itself in Sakai.  Why else would we need to resort  
to yet another metaphor (the drop-down) for the remainder that tabs  
don't handle well?  (Of course, then we are again faced with the  
problem that the dropdown has its own slightly-higher scaling  
limits).  Is the "more tabs" simply improving the workaround, rather  
than addressing the issue?

So I think Barbara's question is apt:  Are tabs the only design idea...?

Yuji Shinozaki
Sr. Technical Lead/Project Manager
University of Virginia
Advanced Technologies Group
ys2n at

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