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I have a site that is a reporting UI, where the primary navigation is between products and their reports. So in the example below, LOREM IPSUM and DOLOR SIC are products, and Pellentesque, Nullam and Curabitur are links to one of:

  • a report which will load into the same page via js
  • a tool which will load into the same page via js
  • a legacy tool which will load into a different page

Down the left, are filters that affect the data in the report. If I make a filter selection, and then select a different report, my instinct is to keep the filters the same -- I think that will be the desired behavior in the vast majority of cases.

I'm slightly worried, though, that I'm breaking the expected behavior of this kind of "primary navigation". Will users expect that they're going to a "new page", and therefore everything should reset. Any ideas about what I can do to mitigate that?

enter image description here

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Well, I don’t think you should be worrying about anything as trying something new and intuitive is not a bad idea at all. Besides that audience today have become much smarter than we think, which is why I feel they will get familiar with your unique approach soon. –  Maneet Puri Oct 19 '12 at 9:38
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3 Answers

The pattern you have established is "ok", it is not untraditional and if the filter criteria on the left remains then it is reasonable to assume that the filters remain. However, you can still make it more intuitive to the user without adding too much extra fluff.

You could include a "filter summary" somewhere on the page (ex: "You are currently filtering on x, y and z").

Personally, I would include an icon somewhere near the report to indicate that it is currently being filtered. This can be accompanied by a "clear filter" icon to allow them to quickly clear it if they choose, giving them the best of both worlds.

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Instincts and assumptions have no place in good UX. Test your ideas with real users. You're building a tool for their workflows and their expectations.

The test shouldn't be complicated. Build a couple of basic prototypes (even with static images) or just talk to users and see how they respond. That'll be a clear resolution of your question about filter behavior.

I'm more concerned about the link to the legacy tool. There might not be a clear way to return to the previous screen (i.e. the screenshot you posted) so the tool better open in a new page/tab and the link has to have some kind of an indicator of the different behavior (e.g., an icon) that doesn't hinder its affordance.

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I think putting access to

  • a report (same page)
  • a tool (same page, same space as report)
  • something that goes to another page

all on the same menu is confusing. I think the report/tool choice should be done with something like radio buttons or subtabs and the link to another page be separated out.

I don't think having filter settings remain unchanged while the report/tool section changes is a problem.

A potential problem I see is the user hitting the back button and losing the settings and possibly hitting the forward button to go back and not noticing the reset. Of course to fix this you could record all the settings state in the URL which is probably a good idea anyway.

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