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I have a client who wants to have conditional content in the product catalogue of their website for each market/user base. The client has a lot of "user bases" and markets, each with different needs, behaviors, attitudes, etc.

Basically, the client would like to see some kind of dropdown menu or selection process that allows the user to select an role/job title from a list. The content will then change depending on which role/job title is selected. This would probably look like a dropdown that that reads, "I am a..." and then lists the options accordingly.

I urged the client to not do this and to work to find a single (if at most three) user that they would like to communicate to and design for.

I couldn't really back my argument up though. What are the UX drawbacks to this kind of conditional selection, if any. I would love to do research on this but the client doesn't have a budget for that. Is there any literature online with details on how to avoid this/handle this situation? Has anyone dealt with a design problem like this?

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Curious ,why dont you just simple headings on top like doctors,lawyers,dentists..and show the content accordingly –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 26 '12 at 21:53

3 Answers 3

How to handle this

Use the faceted navigation pattern. The request isn't particularly unique from a UI point of view: the client simply wants users to be able to subselect from a list of results. Facets work great and are a familiar control that users understand from using eg. Google and Amazon.

Whether to do it at all

Part of your responsibility as a designer is to help the client translate his business goals into a user-friendly experience that meets those goals. To do this you need to understand the client's domain/business model as well as the user's mental model. Creating a place where those two can collide and still make both parties happy is at the core of interaction design.

So to decide whether you should do this, you need to learn more about why the client wants to do it. Ask him how filtering results helps him obtain his business goals. There's probably a good reason for it, but perhaps creating a UI control for what he wants to achieve isn't the best solution. Once you understand what he's trying to do you can suggest some alternatives.

Test your assumptions

The client may not be familiar with various ways to solve his problem. You, however, should be. You can offer them up and show him the benefits and reasons to do things one way or another. Finally, you can perform usability tests with a select group from his audience to measure how people respond.

Both you and the client will have assumptions about how to solve this problem. As a designer part of what you do is help channel the client's needs and guide him towards an effective solution. Rather than focusing on your opinion of how to go about it, work on a partnership where you and the client together discover what that solution is. That is your unique skill.

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Filtering data in an application depending on the signed in user role is, as far as I know, always regarding security and the integrity of the other users utilizing the same service. In that case it's a legitimate approach. Potential clients will flee your service if it turns out that their competition can get a hold of their sensitive data if they use your service.

However, customizing content for the sole purpose to leave content out that, maybe, isn't relevant to the user seems like a tedious and expensive task that possibly could have more drawbacks than benefits.

If you communicate to your client that it would be cheaper to dedicate the time into developing a thought through categorization logic, which even potentially could boost sales because customers may seek services outside their expected frame, rather than simply filtering the content I would assume that your client would choose that approach. (Sorry for the long sentence...)

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Thanks for the feedback! There won't be a sign in process, so security won't be an issue. I agree that a solid taxonomy/categorization scheme makes more sense than conditional content which would put information in silos. Thus making it harder to get to information outside the determined silo. –  Mitch Malone Mar 27 '12 at 13:05

That's a neat idea but it doesn't seem like it's worth the cost of execution. Well written copy will make a good case for the product to any user. That being said, I think you could adapt the IA of the site to hit a few of the target audiences your client is interested in.

UnderArmour does a good job of using a pretty traditional system to organize clothing products but then also breaks them out into context-specific fields (e.g. Baseball, Huting, Football, etc...). This could be the best of both worlds where you have several role-specific landing pages that can be tailored to a particular user but keep the product page helpful for all.

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