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I am designing an admin page that will be used to manage account information for hundreds to thousands of medical offices (practices). Users will be able to take a few actions on a practice or take bulk actions on a group of selected practices.

I'm torn between two options:

  1. Making this just a regular search page where nothing is displayed until the user searches for a practice and then allowing the user to sort & select
  2. Defaulting the page to showing the results for "all" and so the user can immediately start filtering / sorting those results

Is there a rule of thumb on when option 2 might be a good idea? Any better ideas for handling this besides search? Below are screenshots of rough wireframes demonstrating the ideas.

Option 1
Option 1
Option 2
Option 2

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There are some useful comments in Search Vs. Filter- what is the difference. –  Matt Obee Dec 2 '13 at 15:34

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

One of the factors to be considered in this is performance. If it takes the system a few extra seconds to bring up the complete result set than I would steer away from it. And even if the time it takes to bring up both screens is the same, I would go with Option 1 because the blank table acts as a type of prompt for the user to enter in some sort of search criteria.

The only reasons I would go with Option 2 are A) you think the user is going to filter the data primarily with some sort of table header filter controls or B) the user isn't sure what they're going to get for data out of the search action and need to be shown beforehand what kind of result data they can expect to get.

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Thanks. I like the way you described the rationale for when to go with option 2. I've decided to go with option 2 because I don't think the users will know what data they will get back in the results and this gives them an idea of what to expect. –  Chris Allison Dec 3 '13 at 13:26

In your situation, I like option 2 better.

I think what you are really building is a 'Practices View'. Text based search is just one feature of this 'Practices View'. It looks like you have filtering, sorting and a few other features as well.

As you mention in your question, option 2 also removes the need for the user to enter a search term before they can do anything else. Even though they may often perform a search first, option 2 doesn't force them to do so. Maybe seeing a list of all the practices is what they are interested in. In addition, sometimes its nice to see the list before searching so you can can get an idea of how the items are named and what search terms might be useful.

My only other comment is that you should clearly explain what fields are searched. As it stands, I think a search focuses on the practice name only but I'm not sure. Changing the placeholder text in the search box to 'Search by Practice Name' might be an improvement.

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I'd second your opinions on option #2. I see several advantages

  • There's information to act upon right away.
  • User gets a complete sense of this overall screen area. Various UI elements are in harmony.
  • Action components are relevant to "available information".
  • It saves an action...and that's a lot!
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