Alertbox: Tabs, Used Right

Oliver Heyer oliver at
Tue Sep 18 18:43:47 UTC 2007

There is a thread on sakai-dev right now about eliminating iframes  
and the synoptic tools (Proposal/Vote - Make the PDA portal eliminate  
frames by default - SAK-11529). Seems like that effort combined with  
a reconsideration of tabs could form a major part of one of the UI  
lead project proposals: 


On Sep 18, 2007, at 11:23 AM, Yuji Shinozaki wrote:

> 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
> hardest):
> 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
> ----
> Yuji Shinozaki
> Sr. Technical Lead/Project Manager
> University of Virginia
> Advanced Technologies Group
> ys2n at
> _______________________________________________
> fluid-work mailing list
> fluid-work at

Oliver Heyer
Development Manager
Educational Technology Services
UC Berkeley

oliver at


as in "with some modifications
all this could work."

       (makes sweeping gesture
                         indicating "this")

Anselm Hollo, from Near Miss Haiku

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