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Following a discussion here on my work, I like to call in the ideas of UX experts :-)

Thet starting point is a web page on which users can make a configuration of complex products. On the screen, there will be some buttons for search categories. Clicking on one button will open a window that will dynamically build the search options from a database. There are three levels: - by default only the most used options will be on the popup - more advanced users can ask more options & values - and expert users can ask all possible options & values

So we come down to 2 versions, which one is the best, and what improvements can be made.

Proposition 1: expand by clicking links

Basic search: enter image description here

Advanced search: enter image description here

Expert search: enter image description here

Proposition 2: search catagories on top op window

Basic search: enter image description here

Advanced search: enter image description here

Expert search: enter image description here

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Drag unsuspecting people in front of a screen and watch which one gives the best result. –  Jeroen Nov 12 '12 at 16:14
    
are you going to allow multiple selection? –  Igor-G Nov 12 '12 at 16:24
    
Slightly OT and a bit picky: In the first wireframe I'd use "less" instead of "back" as the opposite of "more", because "back" might make the user fear to be taken out of here to a previous context. In the second example I'd use "quick search" instead of "fast search". Hopefully all searchs will be fast while only some will be quick as in quick and dirty, i.e., easily started. Also, now you have 11 reputation! –  Juan Lanus Nov 12 '12 at 18:17
    
@Igor-G In the admin website, the product manager can define all the functions and options. He may choose between: text, number, boolean, checkboxes or radiobuttons. Also, he can define on which search level the function should appear: null, 1, 2 or 3. –  JurgenStillaert Nov 13 '12 at 7:58
    
@JuanLanus Thank you for this input. I have modified the labels. And also thank you for the upvotes, I have added the images inline. –  JurgenStillaert Nov 13 '12 at 8:32

1 Answer 1

Why don't you want to use drop down menus? The user might be confused or not notice "expert"/"novice" settings.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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I can give the product manager an extra option to make it a dropdownlist. But anyway, the point is: what is the best design for the users, clicking on links on the bottom of the page or on buttons on top of the page to extend search possibilities. –  JurgenStillaert Nov 13 '12 at 8:34
    
The less confusing it is the better. The way I see it, also based on lukew web form design , long forms scare users and the easier they look the bigger chance that the user would fill it out. –  Igor-G Nov 13 '12 at 9:44
    
if the question is only about the links, I would suggest you putting them at the top, then the user would see the options before starting to fill-out the form, but there is a down side to this solution the users might skip the options. Personally I don't like the idea of your form. So I would suggest you use the drop down menus for this. –  Igor-G Nov 13 '12 at 9:47
    
adding buttons at the bottom isn't a good idea because the 1st thing user will try to get out of his way is the form so the user might not realise that there are extra options are available. I believe the user will be hesitant of pressing the buttons after filling out the form, they might be afraid of the form loosing all the data, so they would have to fill out the form again (happened to me few times, never used that website again). –  Igor-G Nov 13 '12 at 12:23

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