Split Menus: Effectively Using Selection Frequency to Organize Menus

Andrew Sears, Ben Shneiderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


When some items in a menu are selected more frequently than others, as is often the case, designers or individual users may be able to speed performance and improve preference ratings by placing several high-frequency items at the top of the menu. Design guidelines for split menus were developed and applied. Split menus were implemented and tested in two in situ usability studies and a controlled experiment. In the usability studies performance times were reduced by 17 to 58% depending on the site and menus. In the controlled experiment split menus were significantly faster than alphabetic menus and yielded significantly higher subjective preferences. A possible resolution to the continuing debate among cognitive theorists about predicting menu selection times is offered. We conjecture and offer evidence that, at least when selecting items from pull-down menus, a logarithmic model applies to familiar 1994 items, and a linear model to unfamiliar (low-frequency) items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human-Computer Interaction


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