Take a collection of items.

You split this collection up into 3 groups and then within your UI (in this example we'll assume we're designing an iOS app) you place a segment control with 3 segments so the user can browse each sub group of items independently of the other. The user should never see the full collection at once, they should only ever see 1 of the 3 sub groups of the collection.

But what if one of the items can fit within more than one of the segments? In the example below "rain macs" appear under the "coats" segment and under the "rain macs" segment.

Is it still ok to use a segment control and have the same item appearing under both segments? see diagram below of this example.

Or is this confusing for the user as they believe they are browsing between 3 distinct groups? If so, what is the best way to browse the collection? Is a label for the segment control required e.g. "Browse by tag.. [segment control here]" or "View items tagged with.. [segment control here]". Or is a completely different approach required.

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  • Distinct <> mutually exclusive Jan 9, 2014 at 19:44

3 Answers 3


This segment control actually does make sense to me especially given the online shopping scenario it's presented in; the main concern would be making it clear that the Rain Macs are also included in the Coats filter.

To make this distinction clear, you could have the Rain Mac items stay when switching between Rain Mac and Coats and have the other items be inserted around them. This would make it immediately visually clear that the Rain Macs are in both categories.


To me it seems 'rain macs' is a sub category of 'coats' and shouldn't be shown on the same level as 'coats'. Using that reasoning, the tags should be

  • 'coats' and 'hats'


  • 'winter coats', 'rain macs', 'trench coats', 'parkas', 'biker coats(?)' and 'hats'

But having 'rain macs' as a separate segment doesn't have to be a bad thing. It could be beneficial for your visitors, because it's a popular category and helps your users find it faster.

An other option would be to add a subcategory allowing the user to filter for 'winter coats', 'rain macs' and so on...

  • "But having 'rain macs' as a separate segment doesn't have to be a bad thing. It could be beneficial for your visitors, because it's a popular category and helps your users find it faster" that's the key here. The customer wants the tags (even though one is a sub category of the other) to be at the same level due to its importance. what are your thoughts on having the same items under two different segments?
    – Dave Haigh
    Jan 8, 2014 at 16:07
  • Personally, I would like to see the tag visually different from the others, but in a way it still makes clear there is a connection to raincoats. There are loads of ways of doing that. You could make the shading of the background slightly darker or lighter. Or you could use some sort of border that makes this bond clear. (then I think about the 'rain macs' tag also having a border radius on the right making it whole with the raincoats tag and thus separating the 'hats' tag making clear it's a different segment. Jan 9, 2014 at 7:14

Tabs are usually meant to change the whole context and content. Since you are filtering the results more than navigating through it, I think it would be better to use a filter tool like radio buttons.

However, if the Rain Mac has his own tab, you could avoid to show it when displaying Coats and Hats since you're assuming they are enough different to be separated.

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