When I go to UX job interviews, I very often get asked this question:

How would you display a big list of many items and many filters / filter criteria?

For example: consider a huge list of items in a mobile OS scenario. Users need to have a tool which would enable quick filtering through the list and find items of interest. There are above 20 different filter criteria.

  • What your first design attempt look like?
    – Erics
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:09
  • for a question as generic as that one, you can answer equally good/bad, say ... it depends, and wait. Then just point out all the obvious problems. Consider what Jayfang mentioned on that list
    – PatomaS
    Feb 5, 2014 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


Firstly it is a poor question to be asked. From Nielsen

Winning app UIs include domain-specific solutions that allow humans to focus on deeper issues while the software takes care of the mechanics. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/best-application-designs/

If you don't know the user domain you won't have a great UI. You can both show astuteness and limit the applicable designs by clarifying:

  • Are any criteria more likely to be filtered on than others?
  • How many entries per criteria? or are some a scale.
  • How much of each item being searched needs to be displayed?
  • Is type text to filter useful against item? And against criteria?
  • Is there a natural hierarchy at play? (trees, exclusive options)
  • Is user visual scan fast or slow (e.g. Flags/Faces vs. text )

The right UI should vary depending on the answers.


Maybe it would be a great idea to display attribute filters with the corresponding column headers, if possible. This can also be achieved when the attributes per combo-filter do not intersect (like a set of column groups with their filters).

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