Fisheye menus

Saturday 18 October 2003This is over 19 years old. Be careful.

Jon Udell writes about irony in user interfaces: How rich is the rich GUI? He points out that sometimes native GUIs are richer than web interfaces (the common wisdom), but that sometimes the reverse is true. For example, the web has pervasive links and a back button, which native GUIs typically don’t.

As an example of innovation in user interfaces, Jon points to a demo of fisheye menus. I’m all for innovation, and thinking outside the box and all, but I don’t get this one. True, a traditional list box forces you to scroll, but why is that bad? With the fisheye box, I can see where I am in the list, but I can only read three of the entries at once. It’s like using an ordinary list box that’s three entries tall. And the standard listbox shows me where I am in the list with the thumb of the scroll bar.

» 6 reactions


I had the exact same reaction. Its cool on the surface but it doesn't add anything to the experience of selecting something from either a large or small list. I imagine it would start to really stink if the size of the list got very large (but the same could be said of listboxes in general)
Looks kinda like a textual version of the Mac OS X dock turned sideways. Agree that it's flashy but not particularly useful.

Reminds me of a current pet peeve: I use a certain application that displays a hierarchy of objects in a list box. Not a tree view, a list box. The hierarchy is shown via indentation.

There are hundreds of objects to pick from. I only need to pick one and I know its name. You can only see 10 at a time so you have to scroll through the list to find it, type-ahead doesn't work. The order of list is by parentage and date, not sorted by name. I end up having to remember *where* in the list the object I want is located and scroll around a bit. Fortunately I only have to use this UI once in a while.

For the pain that it inflicts, it deserves a home in the Interface Hall of Shame. (

It pisses me off.
yet another effort to make flash into something other than a banner ad generator.

shark sandwich.
I can see one application where this might be cool. A mail/discussion threaded view, see the thread at the high level and move up and down to see more details. Otherwise it looks pretty irritating.
There is some more discussion on rich GUI vs. web at

The fisheye menu that Jon linked to is really un-usable: try quickly going to entry 15 (for ex), it is really hard.
Here is a much better fisheye menu:
It's from the same people who did a fisheye calendar (fishcal).

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