Should a filtering dropdown appear in the UI when the content to filter (list of items) is empty?

For example there are two tabs in one page that represent two categories of items. In the content area of the tabs the user can see a list of items and use a dropdown filter to sort them.

If the content one of the tabs is empty, should the filter still be part of the UI? (Obviously there's a message to indicate the user there are no items available.)

  • Welcome to the site, @Myriam! Can you clarify what you mean when you write that the user can "use a dropdown filter to sort them"? Filtering and sorting are very different actions. Is the dropdown used to filter (e.g. only show red things) or to sort (e.g. show newer things before older things)? Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 19:29
  • It'll filter not sort. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


It's important to the user to know the state of the application, which in this case is "I don't have any items for you to show" (as defined by Nielsens 10 Heuristics).

Visibility of system status: The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.


So this message is very important and therefore should be displayed to the user. But I think that the dropdown filter should be removed if empty, since it could be misleading (Users may think that there was some error in building the drop-down). They would probably still click/tap the dropdown to see, if it is really empty.

IMHO: keep the message,but kill the dropdown if empty

Hope it helps.

  • Thanks, I think it's right. I don't want it to be misleading and give the user to click on it (event just to verify). I was thinking to leave it there so the user can memorize this function exist. But the pros aren't bigger than the cons. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 20:09

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