Our product has a large multi-tier category tree (300+ nodes) that a user needs to navigate to find their perfect category.

Our users are event marketers, and selecting their correct event category is critical to the product delivery. Users will 90+% of the time be filling out this forms via web app, mobile is a secondary concern.

Current Implementations

New(er) implementation: http://g.recordit.co/LtutziUPZH.gif

Options Selector Options


  • Select Tier 1 -> Select Tier 2 -> Select Tier 3...


  • Searchable list, input '3' characters before any results
  • Fully scrollable list
  • Modal popup displaying entire category tree

The answer will likely be some combination of these. Does anyone have any similar experience to share?

  • do you have a rough mock of what you've tried? What kind of product domain is this? Please be as specific as you can for more context.
    – Mike M
    Jul 25, 2017 at 21:34
  • Just made some edits to the original post to include some .gif's of current implementations, and some further context. Hope that helps clarify.
    – Phil L
    Jul 26, 2017 at 8:23

3 Answers 3


You can add a search bar (option filter). Semantic UI has a great solution for that: https://semantic-ui.com/modules/dropdown.html#search-selection

I personally used this method in my application for message receiver selection with a list of 400 users and it worked just fine.


I agree with others that Option B is the much better option. It is pretty much how anyone with large numbers of categories handles it, e.g. Amazon and ebay. Amazon / ebay do allow a secondary option of going through a hierarchy, but this is typically secondary.

Looking at your gif, which looks mostly excellent, I noticed that sometimes it was hard to figure out why the options came up as part of the search.

Stack Exchange has it's very own, quite excellent category selector.

Some things to note:

  1. They underline the matching string
  2. They have cross categories e.g. performance vs response-time
  3. They include descriptions of the categories
  4. They use a mega-menu style to give more information
  5. They are still displaying as many categories as you do (5) when you search

enter image description here


The second option seems to be infinitely more usable than the first, my opinion would be to give your users a method to say 'I can't find my category' and another way of search, perhaps the laborious first one you detailed.

  • It is more useable, but it's reliant on users search terms hitting the right category. In a world of specialised subjects & advanced categories, it's certainly possible that we have tagged something different to what a user expects. This is leading me towards Option A in the image, where we (hopefully) lead the user in the right direction.
    – Phil L
    Jul 26, 2017 at 11:33

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