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Lists: Open vs. Drop-Down

Document Type: Standard


HHS shall use open lists i.e. items listed in full (i.e. items listed in full -see example) rather than drop-down lists to select one from many. However, if a list is long and requires scrolling to see in its entirety, (e.g. a list of states and territories), a drop-down list is acceptable. Drop down lists should be ordered logically (A to Z, etc.).

This open list example allows users to see all choices at once.

This drop down list example allows user to select a state from the choices provided.


Generally, the more items users can see in a list (without scrolling), the faster their responses will be, and the fewer omission errors they will make.  Ideally, users should be able to see all available items without scrolling.

Open lists tend to elicit faster performance primarily because drop-down lists require an extra click to open.  


When displaying a list on a form, if there fewer than 5 options, radio buttons should be used to select one from many. See related standards for more details.