When having a lot of items inside a dropdown and those items can be categorized as groups.. should those groups be expandable and collapsable?

2 scenarios -
the more likely one
Users know what they are looking for:
they'll probably use the search in the select dropdown, but they might look for the categories if they cant remember the exact item name.

and the less likely one:
Users that doesn't know what they are looking for:
maybe having all the grouped collapsed may help them scan through the categories better? but they might miss items inside

What should I use and why?

  • are you using a predictive search?
    – Devin
    May 10, 2023 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


and welcome to the site!

I'm a little worried by your term "drop-down", which I interpret as just showing a small list of items to select from. Due to the list's small size, no search, grouping, etc. should be needed.

In case you have a lot of entries to pick from, this should be visible from the input control (i.e., this input control should be visually different from the "drop-down list box" with few entries).

Depending on the number of items (in all groups), it certainly makes sense to have collapsible groups. I'd combine search with grouping so that group names are searched/found as well, and items within groups will expand the group. The open question is whether the function "searches" (shows all items and highlights the matching ones) or "filters" (only shows matches). That depends on terminology and how the surrounding design works.

So the initial display can show all groups collapsed. Searching will open groups with matches. And to give the user control, there should be the possibility to manually collapse/expand groups.

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