Inline Edit: empty fields and minimum widths

Eli Cochran eli at
Mon Jul 21 22:47:14 UTC 2008

Just back from vacation... so it's probably too late for my suggestion  
but here it is anyway.

Rather than inserting spaces, how about using some extra padding when  
the field is empty? spans do not have widths but they do accept padding.

- Eli

On Jul 9, 2008, at 3:17 PM, Daphne Ogle wrote:

> Hey Gary,
> Good point -- the last thing we want to do is get caught up on an edge
> case.   I think we do have some real examples of this need though.
> Check out this storyboard,
> The item is initially not assigned/constrained to a group so the field
> is left blank.  The blankness is information.  The alternative is to
> have text in the space when the field is null but many times that
> becomes a lot of noise.  Or in the lightbox example, what if someone
> just didn't use the description field.  Would they want a message "to
> enter description" under every image?   What do you think?
> The choice of whether or not to use text to describe null or leave it
> blank will actually be left to the application that is implementing
> the component.  But I do think we want to make it possible to leave it
> blank and give design advice in the design pattern about the right
> thing to do.
> I guess in this particular example (storyboard from above), the field
> could be the size of the drop down.
> -Daphne
> On Jul 7, 2008, at 10:50 AM, Gary Thompson wrote:
>> Do we have a context of use where the user is editing "nothing"?  It
>> seems that all of the comparative analysis and contexts of use in the
>> design of inline edit point to having something already existing to
>> edit.
>> If the condition exists where the user has not yet entered
>> information,
>> then it should probably be populated with a default message like
>> "Click
>> here to enter description" (from the lightbox collection view).  This
>> also becomes the cue to the user that they can inline edit said
>> information.
>> Then the existing information (whether user entered or a default
>> message) provides the "width" of the inline edit field.
>> Gary
>> Anastasia Cheetham wrote:
>>> On 7-Jul-08, at 11:43 AM, Michael S Elledge wrote:
>>>> How about using putting the input field in a CSS class containing
>>>> the "inline" attribute?
>>>> Anastasia Cheetham wrote:
>>>>> The problem is this:
>>>>> It seems you can't set a minimum width on <span> elements without
>>>>> setting them to "display:block" (if anyone knows otherwise, please
>>>>> correct me!!).
>>> Mike, thanks for the suggestion! I just tried it out, and
>>> unfortunately, it has the wrong effect. By forcing the display to be
>>> 'inline' it actually imposes the "no minimum width allowed"
>>> behaviour,
>>> so that even empty divs, which would have allowed a minimum width,
>>> become invisible :-(
>>> Michelle suggested a bit of a hack that would likely work, which is
>>> to
>>> fill the 'empty' field with spaces. I'll investigate this option
>>> later
>>> today (unless anyone thinks it's a bad idea...)
>> _______________________________________________
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> Daphne Ogle
> Senior Interaction Designer
> University of California, Berkeley
> Educational Technology Services
> daphne at
> cell (510)847-0308
> _______________________________________________
> fluid-work mailing list
> fluid-work at

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Eli Cochran
user interaction developer
ETS, UC Berkeley

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