Considering I have a filter dialog composed by checkboxes

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I have a "select all" checkbox above the other checkboxes.

When te user comes to the results page, it sees all the results, besides of filters.

My two questions are:

  1. Should the user really see all the results? Or a prefiltered query?

  2. If it really should see all the results, should be the checkboxes all checked or not checked, even when the results are not filtered? I'm concerned about the confusion of the user when it gets all the results but no checkbox checked.


2 Answers 2


Since selecting all (or none selected) equals unfiltered, instead give the ability to 'clear filters', and consider the filter bar visibility once the dialog is closed (and the user has to see or remember their filter choices).

If you have a dialog:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

This might not be dealing directly with your question in the dialog, but consider if possible a persistent visible filter, which can move to an overlay when you get to mobile.

Persistent visible filters allow immediate feedback

I'm not sure of your domain, but in eCommerce, it's common for the filters to be persistent in a left pane that visible, or in a horizontal band atop the results. See zappos and bhphoto: both sites with lots of SKUs.

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I'm not familiar with the design constraints you have, but a persistent filter might be more nimble than a dialog you have to keep dismissing. You could have a 'Clear' or 'Clear filter' in the results area (or just keep in the dialog if you can't have visible persistent filters).

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For mobile considerations:

Here's an article from Neilsen Norman re: mobile faceted search, and show the use of trays to narrow results. You'll notice they don't have the checkmark next to each category, only the one they are filtering on. In ebay's case, it's nonfiction.

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You should probably ask your business stakeholder what is the desired default set of filters.

If everything should be displayed, you need to figure out which user action is more common (or desired):

  • select 1 or few items only => nothing selected in the form,
  • remove selection of 1 or few items, but keep everything else selected => all selected in the form.

In the case of search results, I believe it is already common that no selected filers will produce all results - because 0 results do not make much sense in this context.

However in other cases such as subscribing to marketing emails, no selection should really mean that nothing will be subscribed.

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