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A hypertext markup language (HTML) drop down menu is a web page form element. The menu can be used to show list of options, such as geographic regions, and it allows a user to select from the list when entering data. An HTML drop down menu can be used to make a web page more usable, and it is an important skill in website design.
In many instances, HTML drop down menus can be created within web forms using the “select” tag. Within the tag’s code, options indicate the text to display to the user, and the data to be entered behind the scenes when the form is submitted. The HTML code will determine the order of the options, whether more than one option can be selected, and how many options to display when the menu is not selected.
Using an HTML drop down menu on a web form can offer a number of design advantages. The menu can save space on the screen, because usually just one selection is displayed until the menu is chosen. It can save valuable time, because in many cases it may be easier to select from a list than to enter text.
Along with saving screen space and time, it can help ensure that users enter only valid data. For example, a web form may have a drop down list for the user to select his country. The drop down menu ensures that the country is spelled in a way the form will understand. If the user was asked to enter his country by typing in text, he could easily mistype or use abbreviations that the form may be unable to handle.
Although an HTML drop down menu can offer advantages, there are also times when the web designer may decide against its use. If the user will be asked to choose from a small number of options, it may be better to use other types of form entry methods, such as radio buttons or check boxes. When the information to be entered is not standard, a freeform text box may make more sense then forcing users to select from drop down lists of options that may not apply.