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This post addressed the menu action which most closely opposed "select all," but I am looking for the filter criteria that most accurately represents "none selected," or the opposite of "all selected."

I have a UI that will display certain university courses based on semester. In general, the UI will display all courses whose semester matches one of those checked.

Say, for example, these are all of the available courses in a database:

  • Chemistry 101, Fall 2016
  • English 142, Spring 2017
  • Anthropology 256, Spring 2017
  • Biology 128, Fall 2017
  • Geology 308, Spring 2018

If you checked only Spring 2017, for example, the UI would display [English 142, Anthropology 256].

Here is what the UI looks like with all semesters selected:

enter image description here

If all semesters are selected, the UI will display every course listed:

[Chemistry 101, English 142, Anthropology 256, Biology 128, Geology 308].

Now what if the UI has no semesters selected at all?

Should the UI show all courses [Chemistry 101, English 142, Anthropology 256, Biology 128, Geology 308] or an empty set [ ]? Which is more accurate and will make more sense to the average user?

No semesters selected

If possible, I don't want to have an 'error' or 'check your input' message to the user if they select no semesters. The UI should display something no matter what is checked, even if no checkboxes are ticked.

  • Hi @Thicc, thanks for your contribution to UXSE! It is an interesting use case that you are considering here, and one that assumes it is important to differentiate between 'not selecting anything' and 'selecting nothing'. I would be interested to see if there are some actual examples where it is important to tell between the two as mostly people are only focused on what is selected. – Michael Lai Jun 7 '20 at 23:13
  • Hi Thicc, may I know why do you think UI show all courses if no semester is selected? – Omkar Chogale Jun 8 '20 at 18:36
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Should the UI show all courses [Chemistry 101, English 142, Anthropology 256, Biology 128, Geology 308] or an empty set [ ]? Which is more accurate and will make more sense to the average user?

The honest answer is -- it depends -- on the initial state of the checkboxes when the page is loaded.

We have 2 scenarios:


Scenario A:
On page load: Nothing is checked; all results are displayed;

All results are already displayed even when all the checkboxes are unchecked. Any checkbox selected will filter for that specific semester. As soon as the first checkbox is selected, your result set will drastically reduce to that match that selection alone. As the user checks more and more checkboxes, the result set gradually expands, until finally all boxes are checked, and therefore, all results are displayed. Note here:

  1. The checkboxes represent "filtration".
  2. Select All activates all filters and therefore brings all matches, which equates to the full result set.
  3. Deselect All removes all filtering, and therefore leaves behind the unfiltered result set, which also equates to the full result set.
  4. So, performing either Deselect All or Select All will lead to the same output -- ALL RESULTS.

Here's a real world example:


All flights are displayed by default, and the option to filter by Departure Time is available: Unfiltered


When filtered, only matching flights are displayed: Filtered


When filtered for all, all matching flights are displayed, which is the same as all flights: All Filters


Scenario B:
On page load: all checkboxes are checked; all courses are displayed;

If the page is initially loaded with all checkboxes checked, your results should show all matches. As the checkboxes are unchecked, one by one, the result set will start to diminish, until finally, you are left with no checkboxes checked, and therefore, an empty result set. This is the most natural progression to a user, who understands that their actions caused all results to disappear. Perhaps your result screen can print a message like Pick a semester to see available courses. to make the next action clearer. Note here:

  1. The checkboxes represent "segmentation".
  2. Select All activates all segments and therefore shows results from all.
  3. Deselect All activates no segment, and hence there are no results.
  4. Performing Deselect All and Select All will lead to the opposite outputs.

Here's the same flight example with a different ideology:


All flight operators are included by default, and the option to remove selected Airlines is available: All Results


When filtered, only matching flights are displayed: Filtered Results


When no operators are selected, the system alerts for a selection: No Results


And yes, it is possible to mix the two kinds of filter ideologies, as long as they have clearly defined behaviours as detailed above.

On ClearTrip, a website for booking flights, you can see both types of filters present simultaneously side-by-side.

Both types of filter ideologies


This is a summary of the points covered:

Summary


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Okay, here is one thing you can try and test with users. Have all courses listed as disabled tokens initially. As users select semesters, enable corresponding course tokens. So, at any given point, all courses will be visible, and those fall in selected semesters will look like enabled/highlighted. Thus, if no semesters are selected, all course labels will be disabled state. Thus, users will always know what all courses are available and which are currently included in selected semesters.

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I think it will make more sense to show all courses listed. Users can refine the search results checking semesters. edX works like this: https://www.edx.org/search

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