Nielsen Norman Group articles


Hi everyone, I am a big fan of Jakob Nielsen, but was wondering that some of his articles are quite outdated considering how design principles have changed over time. What do you think? For example**Use checkboxes and radio buttons only to change settings, not as action buttons** - September 27, 2004


oh god yeah, some stuff is way out of date


I can’t think of a good time to use a radio or checkbox as an action button. Do you know of any examples?


Maybe I’m missing something here - how is this advice out of date? Like @rachelreveley, I can’t think of a good reason to use checkboxes or radio buttons as action buttons.

A lot of the stuff on is old. Old does not mean outdated. I’ve found virtually everything up there to still be valid, even if it was written some time ago.


We are designing the shopping configurator (similar to apple , I am keen to use the radio button and check box tiles which users are pretty familiar with these days specially with touchable device. One of my colleagues has asked my opinion regarding the article where Nielsen suggests to use the check box and radio button only for changing the setting purpose.

@dougcollins I’m not saying the old document is outdated as his 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design from 1995 is still valid but the time he mentioned about the usage of radio and check boxes there were no touchable devices.


I think some articles are old, but technology hasn’t changed that much that they are obsolete yet. In the examples above, my question would be: why not add check boxes as a form of visual feedback?
I’m considering accessibility here as well.
I recently worked on a pricing calculator where users could select different product cards and the visual design team and director decided not to apply the checkboxes I implemented in wireframes similar to what you have above. Upon reviewing user sessions there was a lot of confusion as to whether the cards were selected just simply clicked/pressed - i.e. confusion with the “state”. In my wires, the checkboxes were there to work as a form of visual feedback that an action taken has been confirmed. Later surveys revealed users could not differentiate between whether the system had acknowledged the click just as a focus state or confirmed a selected state. I also thought about users with visual impairments - checkboxes would be much easier to notice than a border stroke. I know all situations are different, I hope mine has been helpful.


If I was going to pedantic about it, I’d say that touch screens had been around for 30+ years prior to that article being written. The first touch screen phone debuted 11 years before the article. By 2004, when the article in question was written, multi-touch was already in-use.

If I wasn’t being pedantic, I’d say that the concept still applies, even on touch devices. If you’re looking for more modern articles on the subject, here are a couple.


Be careful to not also be too literal. The examples shown are making either a single or multiple selections from choices, not taking an action. However, while many people like to copy Apple, keep in mind Apple doesn’t always follow design principles well. Also, those examples are not accessibility friendly, so that’s another thing to keep in mind.


I agree with @dougcollins
Old doesn’t mean that they are outdated because UX is never outdated. If there is other or better way to show, it’s not outdated.
Although, it depends upon on product and target audience of that product and what problem are you trying to solve.


This makes me so happy to read! I love seeing others keeping accessibility front-of-mind in the design process.