I am creating a flashcard app. Each flashcard has a single assigned difficulty: Easy, Medium, Hard and Extreme. I want to give users the option of choosing a desired level of difficulty. My question relates to how difficulty selection should behave:

Option 1: If the user selects the difficulty Medium then flashcards of difficulties up to, and including, Medium are shown (i.e. Easy and Medium flashcards). Difficulty would be selected using a dropdown menu.

Option 2: Allow the user to select multiple difficulty levels. E.g. if only Easy and Hard difficulties are selected, then only Easy and Hard flashcards are shown. Difficulty would be selected using toggle buttons/check boxes.

My problem with Option 1 is that users may only wish to study Hard flashcards, without being bothered by the Easy ones. My problem with Option 2 is that I can't see users wishing to study flashcards at opposite difficulty extremes (i.e. Easy and Extreme). Which option is more intuitive?

  • Usually the user expects to select a single difficulty level. But, since you want to take care of all possibilities, why not provide 3 toggle buttons and let the user select whatever combination he wants. This will handle all possible cases: 'all up to Medium', 'only difficult ones', 'easy and difficult ones', and so on. Jan 18, 2014 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


I don't see the problem with option 2. If they don't wish to study Easy and Extreme, they won't mark them. It does provide a fine level of control and a clear understanding of what's going on. While under option 1, if a user selects Extreme and he sees items which are obviously from the Easy level, he might get confused, think that he didn't really mark the right option, think that there's some other complementary setting that needs to be set, think it's a bug, etc. Under option 2 the control is clear and the system is predictable, but option 1 is ambiguous.


Simpler is almost always better. If you expect a vast majority of your users to prefer a single difficulty level, then just use a drop-down menu and only show questions from that one level (neither option 1 or 2).

However, if multiple simultaneous difficulty levels is an important feature (intuitively, it doesn't seem like it would be), then you would want to use option #2.

How do you decide?

  • Ideally, do an A/B test with both versions of the UI.
  • If you don't have enough customers for that, then user testing both would be the next best option. (See if: 1. People get confused by the multi-selection, and 2. If people even choose multiple options at once.)
  • If you don't have time for any testing, see what other similar software does and copy that.

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