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markwheeler

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Reply with quote  #1 
What are people's views on formatting monetary user input fields?  That is so the currency symbol is shown (e.g. $, £), thousand separator is shown (e.g. comma or dot), right aligned, etc.

I've looked at some mainstream websites like Amazon and eBay, and surprisingly they don't format the monetary input boxes and instead show plain numbers (e.g. 10000.00) instead of a formatted number (e.g. $10,000.00).

Why is this?  I would have thought formatted numbers (with the formatting done via JavaScript on a webpage, so no understanding required on the users behalf) is more user friendly than plain numbers.


Steve Krug

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Reply with quote  #2 
I'm definitely not an expert on this one.

I'm sure you can do it pretty easily with jQuery. And if you're lucky, the jQuery solution produces something that doesn't cause accessibility problems. And that works cleanly and understandably when JavaScript is off. Maybe. And doesn't interact badly with whatever you're using to make your site responsive. Or break in some browser or other, for some vague reason. Maybe.

But the truth is, *not* having the value formatted usually doesn't cause the user much trouble. (I'm assuming, of course, that the currency--like USD or GBP--is clearly specified somewhere near the field itself.)

My point is, on almost any site there are almost always plenty of *actual* usability problems hanging around, either undetected or unsolved or both. Unless your site is so clean that you sleep incredibly well at night, why go looking to solve what are essentially non-problems?

And if there's one thing we know about introducing new technical solutions, it's that they always bring along problems of their own.

I can almost hear you thinking, "..but it's just a *little* bit of JavaScript...." Stop it. Now.
markwheeler

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Reply with quote  #3 
We've actually applied monetary field input formatting. Yes - it was easy and we did it via a JQuery script. However, I was concerned about not seeing monetary input field formatting elsewhere on the web, especially on main stream auction and banking sites.

So, thanks for the advice and we will not remove this formatting. Then we'll go back to our page and look for some more likely usability killers :-)

Thanks again

Mark

Ps. Recently read Don't Think after working in software for nearly 20 years and it has given be a new and much needed perspective on design - thanks you!
Steve Krug

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Reply with quote  #4 
That's the spirit, Mark! As long as you're doing some [hopefully simple] usability testing and keeping a weather eye out for any as-yet-undetected-but-certainly-there-if-you-haven't-done-any-testing-yet "usability killers".

I'll now do what I should have done in the first place and pass the question along to someone who really *will* know whether monetary formatting can cause any problems itself: my go-to expert for anything forms-related, Caroline Jarrett. I went ahead and blathered a bit only because I know she's on the road teaching a workshop in Lisbon and didn't want to bother her. She may chime in here in the days ahead.
markwheeler

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Reply with quote  #5 
Great stuff - it would be good to get her viewpoint on it.

Caroline's book "Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability" as been on my reading wish list for a while, so you've prompted me to download to my Kindle and read through it now.


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