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I have an application that is based heavily around a users ability to search.

A user can search for 1 or many entities, which includes: Businesses, People or an Animals.

For each of our result sets we want to have filters and sorting. This is where I am having some concern. My concern is that the "business" is pushing to have filter and sorting options that would filter/sort on content that is not visible in the search result. The content is not visible because we have tried to simplify and standardize our result sets.

My argument is that if the data is not visible the sort/filters become confusing because you can not see the sort data.

I.E You can sort by province/state, only if the province/state is in the result set.

Their argument is that they should have the options to filter/limit the result sets to whatever they want.

I.E. Regardless of whether or not province/state is in the result set, they feel they should have the ability to sort/filter on it.

What are you thoughts?

How coupled should the filter/sort criteria be with the available data?

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the never ending battle; UXers vs The Business

Their request will be very confusing for users...and i will explain why.

First of all, search, filter and sort requires the users to know enough about the specific data presented. No one instantly knows exactly what he/she is sorting/filtering by. They start of by doing some research as to what is out there first so they can evaluate their options. Instead of assuming that a user already has a mental picture of exactly what they’re looking for, it’s helpful to show them all of your content/data, and let them narrow it down based on their needs. Having a filter that is not visible in the table will add confusion and frustration. I will give you an example: Try filtering backpack by shoe size and running shoes by liters. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, then set up filters that only apply to data that is visible.

One more thing for you: How do you plan to implement your sort/filter, on Submit or in Real-time. Think about it because it may add additional confusion to the process.

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