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We are building a product category page with a couple of filter options to let the user remove uninteresting products. The filter options are for example color, size, specific product features etc.

What is your experience with updating the product listing as the user select different options (the page doesn't reload)? My case against updating the result in real time is that it could distract the users.

Should you do that or is it better to use a button as a trigger?

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I think your concern that updating the result in real time would distract the users is not actually a serious issue - in general, most interfaces strive to be as quick and responsive as possible (see Amazon shopping interfaces, eBay filtering interfaces, or Google instant search).

The real issue is whether or not you can actually be responsive while filtering in real time - if you can return updated results to the user very quickly (< 1 s is a good rule of thumb), go for it. If the filtering option is slower, it might be better UX to force the user to "commit" their filters by pressing a button and launching a longer running operation.

It sounds like you are filtering via some client-side mechanism, so I would expect it to be rather snappy - go with the instant filtering. Applications that respond in "real-time" to user commands empower your users with a greater sense of agency and control.

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I would bring up a case of direct manipulation. If you let the users see the changes as they select and deselect filters, they are getting immediate feedback of their actions and can make decisions faster. Rather, if you select the filters and then submit to see changes, the process becomes longer.

So, if you can implement, showing results in real time is good.

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