What is the difference between filtering and sorting for a search query? Any SQL developer would be happy to tell you that a sort translates to a SQL ORDER BY statement, while a SQL WHERE clause performs a filter. However, for most users of consumer-facing ecommerce applications, the difference between a sort and a filter presents a mystery they understand dimly, if at all. The distinction between sorting and filtering blurs, because of a phenomenon I’ve called filtering by sorting, which leads to all sorts of interesting search user interface implications. Read More
Recently, Office Depot redesigned their search user interface, adding attribute-based filtering and creating a more dynamic, interactive user experience. Unfortunately, Office Depot’s interaction design misses some key points, making their new search user interface less usable and, therefore, less effective. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Office Depot site presents us with an excellent case study for demonstrating some of the important best practices for designing filters for faceted search results, as follows:
Decide on your filter value-selection paradigm—either drill-down or parallel selection.
Provide an obvious and consistent way to undo filter selection.
Always make all filters easily available.
At every step in the search workflow, display only filter values that correspond to the available items, or inventory.
Provide filter values that encompass all items, or the complete inventory.
By following the attribute-based filtering design best practices this article describes, you can ensure your customers can take care of business without having to spend time struggling with your search user interface. Read More
In contrast to the decimal system for Arabic numerals that was invented in India around 1500 years ago, the Gregorian calendar has been in use for only about 428 years. As a consequence, humanity as a whole has had a bit less practice with calendars and dates, which on their own can be confusing to most people. Date filters frequently add to this confusion by neglecting usability and design best practices. Though date filters are among the hardest and most time-consuming controls for people to manipulate, many user interfaces stubbornly fail to retain the information they have so painstakingly provided or safeguard them from inadvertently making errors. Often, people literally groan during usability tests when asked to enter date values. Sloppy or indifferent designs for date filters lead to unhappy customers. This column shows you how to design date filters to be as intuitive and pain free as possible. Read More