The UX of AutoComplete

Autocomplete is one of those UI widgets that can revolutionize an application. Jörn Zaefferer has developed a beautiful lightweight version of autocomplete for jQuery. In my Marketo app, I am heavily using Jack Slocum’s EXT autocomplete. Once I introduced it, it really eliminated alot of complexity, not to mention modal dialogs. As a UI tool, it is just essential. Some key UX attributes that they both share:

  • Keyboard works. Press down or enter. Very easy to get power users their fix.
  • Highlights the letters in the result set. This is a subtle but important example.
  • Ajax filtering for high cardinality pickers.
  • Fast! This is awesome.
  • Lightweight (more for Jorn than for Jack)
  • Easy to implement (depends on who is implementing. jQuery is easier for me, of course)

There is one item that neither is enabling, but is quite important. I have pickers that allow comma-separated values, sort of like the address bar in gmail or outlook. The autocomplete needs to be able to work in a series, in a textarea or text input. This would be the coup-de-gace for either of these widgets.

UPDATE:  Jorn’s version DOES do this.  It has a couple of quirks if you try to break it, like putting your cursor back to the beginning, but overall it works great.

Great work to both of them. This is a boon to all UX designers out there. Use autocomplete!

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