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Context: Building a webpage that has a moderate list of items. Several independent categories can be applied. I built a wireframe showing off 3 drop down selectors to act as simple filters. An executive said we shouldn't be using these, they are not best practice... But with no suggestion to anything else.

Hopefully that is just executive speaking to fancy swanky trends. I am not aware of anything inappropriate of my current use of select filters.

For example: We have three possible categories, each having their own drop down selection list, and several options. (made up)

  • Food Type
    • Canned
    • Organic
    • Frozen
  • Delivery Method
    • Land
    • Air
    • Teleporter
  • Quantity
    • Small
    • A lot
    • Wholesale

As you can see, the options a user can only select one of each. So there isn't a need for multi-select list. By selecting each option, the list of available foods gets narrowed down.

I can't think of an reason to not use this method to filter down items. But I could very well be wrong, and have not read up the latest UX material out there.

Some insight would be helpful.

  • Is your list above representative of the number of options, or are there more in a given list? – Evil Closet Monkey Feb 28 '14 at 21:35
  • Yes. I can be sure it won't grow to more than 5 each in the far future. – Chris Feb 28 '14 at 22:33
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The filter depends on the type of data. Below, I use the word 'commonly' a lot because its relative to the surrounding design, other UX elements and how the element of discussion influences the ease of use. A Google seach involving "search filter best UX practices" will produce you many different perspectives of which you can devise your own opinions

Sort Filters Ordering results are commonly seen in drop down 'sort' filters. Commonly re-presenting all items based on criteria mapped out in the drop downs.

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Limiting Filters Commonly vertical lists that enable the user to see all combinations at a glance and restrict the result set to the criteria selected by the user.

enter image description here

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Drop-down lists (DDLs) are fine for what you're doing, since there are a manageable number of items in each DDL.

I think your supervisor wants a single text box (that spits out search results for each key press) where the user enters ANYTHING that comes to their mind, which may or may not include categories (food type), delivery method, quantity, brand name, food name, etc. Then it would be up to your server to decipher that user input and give you the results (which would be a development nightmare unless your developing team is formally trained in and/or has extensively researched search engine disciplines). This gives users freedom, but how would they know that they can include delivery method and quantity? How would they know even what categories to type? When presented a search box, most people will expect a sub-string search by product name, description, or category.

By the way, I'm almost positive that delivery method should not be a search criterion, because it should be specified only after the user has specifically chosen an item to place in their shopping cart. It's quite unusual for any company to sell items that could only be delivered a certain way. All items should be deliverable in every way offered by the company.

Ask your supervisor why DDLs are inappropriate even if you have a fairly steady finite number of items in each of them. Ask what they would suggest instead.

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