I have an interface using Miller columns like this:

enter image description here

And I'm trying to implement the search feature to it. What are my options?

The first method that I can think of is on blur search triggering with resetting the interface to the initial stage (first column full) with search applied to all nodes, only showing which contain the matching childs.

The second is to highlight the path with the parents containing the matching childs without losing the current state.

Is there any other methods that I'm not aware of yet? What's the standard and UX-wise easy method for this?

1 Answer 1


Remember that Miller columns are tree structures, so taking a look to Apple's Finder (which actually uses a form of Miller columns) would provide you with a tested answer. I'm not at the office so I can't access a Mac to take a screenshot, but you can do it by yourself.

On a more specific subject, I think you should highlight only the searched term and nothing else. If I look for "foo", I won't care about "foo parent", "foo grandparent" and "foo dinosaurs father of them all foo". At least not on the beginning, because I'm literally looking for FOO. If I need to go down the tree branches, I can do it.

But don't highlight things I didn't request for, or you'll force me to scan data I didn't ask for until I find what I needed. And I won't know what to do with the other highlighted terms (should I click them? Is there something hidden? Maybe hover over it?)

Finally, the breadcrumb. Remember that last node in a breadcrumb is the one you're currently on. However, you're listing the whole tree branches visualized on the current page, which is really confusing for a breadcrumb. In this specific case, and barring testing, I think the back button should be more than enough for navigation purposes.

A middle point between Miller columns and breadcrumbs would be that after search, you show only the column where the searched term is. Then, a breadcrumb above showing the whole trail to get to that search term

  • Hi, I don't have a mac nearby, can you help me visualize it?
    – Taha Paksu
    Sep 24, 2018 at 6:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.