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Glossary » stimulus-response compatibility

stimulus-response compatibility

the degree to which what people perceive is consistent with the actions they need to take.

Saying “red” when you see a red light go on is an example of high compatibility. Having to say “green” when a red light goes on is an example of low compatibility.

Common examples in user interfaces are:

  • in ordered lists (such as email ordered by date), the lists may be listed from top to bottom, but the Next arrow may be pointing to the right. If you click on the right arrow, do you select the item above the current item or below it? This can be especially confusing if the items are ordered with the most recent email (the last one) at the top. A more compatible arrangement would be to have up and down arrows, which always move the selection up or down, regardless of the order of the list.
  • when a range of cells is selected in a spreadsheet, clicking on the down arrow at the bottom of a row will take you to the top of the next row. Sometime this is what people have intended. Sometimes not.