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I am developing a new iOS app and I need to let the user commit a search where three fields are shown.

  1. a group name (development, marketing etc.)
  2. member name
  3. project name

the search should be done by choosing only one or two of the three options, with these conditions:

  • if group was selected you can only select project (not member)
  • if member was selected, you can only select project (not group)
  • if project was selected, you have an option to fill out either group or member.

I would like to accomplish that without graying out the fields. I would like to give the app a bit more intuitive and friendly UI. I was thinking more of choosing one, and somehow displaying the relevant field, and I would like the user to somehow understand that the other field is not mandatory, but optional.

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As it's not as simple as "fill in any two fields and search" you need to make it explicit in the UI what the search rules are. The clearest way would be to disable the invalid input field once the user starts to fill in some data. –  ChrisF May 22 '12 at 9:27
    
Related: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/6216 –  greenforest May 22 '12 at 10:31
    
Sounds like a crazy logic to me. Why you have to do it in this way? Google is a complex search engine and somehow they have managed to make it work only with one field. Can you provide more info? –  ADOConnection May 22 '12 at 12:15
    
It's really a matter of filtering. you do need to know how to ommit using '-' and force using '+' keywords, so in a sense it is as complex. I need that UI to be very friendly –  Ted May 22 '12 at 12:17
    
How many groups, members and projects do you have? –  ADOConnection May 22 '12 at 12:25
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3 Answers

I would use enable/disable state on the search button.

  1. No fields filled in - disabled
  2. One field filled in - enabled
  3. Two field filled in - enabled
  4. Three field filled in - disabled

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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The only danger with this is that as it's not as simple as "any two from three" the user might not be able to work out why the search button is enabled in one case but disabled in another. –  ChrisF May 22 '12 at 9:25
    
@ChrisF I agree! Especially when the user starts to enter the third field - it could be anoying. Why not show a friendly label when she/he starts to enter text in the third field? "Use only 1 or 2 fields in search" –  Benny Skogberg May 22 '12 at 9:32
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I thought of this solution:

Graphically, show the options right after the first choice was made:
enter image description here

After that

enter image description here

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perhaps a '+' instead of a '->' –  Ted May 22 '12 at 12:29
    
You get the idea :) –  Jackson May 22 '12 at 15:57
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If this is advanced search screen, I whould have done it in this way:

Ask how to search on a first screen and choose other data on other steps using scroll list. in this way i user don't have to enter anything.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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