I'm wondering if there are guidelines on how to let my users enter a text-free filter where I want to let then use wildcards (besides 'simple' text).

Assuming I have a report with columns and lines, and I have to provide my users the ability to filter out lines if a certain column, named 'Branch type' contains some string. Right now I provide the following, including two options: 'contain' and 'does not contain':

enter image description here

Now it becomes more confusing: Assuming I want to let them use wildcards (** see below), how would you implement this?

  • Would you keep the same two options?
  • Would you change these two options to 'is' and 'is not'?
  • Would you provide 4 options, including 'is' and 'is not' (which does not support wildcards) and another two options 'contains' and 'does not contain' that support wildcards?

Thank you!

(**) Wildcards means special characters like "*" (asterisk) which can replace every character

  • Adblock preferences on chrome are not bad about filtering an adress
    – Yohann V.
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


I think it depends a little on what kind of users you are targeting.

If you want to make it as easy as possible for any user (newbie or professional), look at big search engines like google. They let you search for anything and have an advanced search with many different fields where you users can define what they want to search for and what they don't want to search for. enter image description here This has a couple of advantages:

  1. You let them search for words they do look for and don't look for at the same time which your approach is missing at the moment.

  2. They explain the user at the same time, what "syntax" they can use in the search field once they have used this advanced search a couple of times. E.g. "-word" means "not 'word'" or quotes around a sentence mean "exactly this sentence" etc.

  3. They can show other options user's didn't know about until they've seen the options.

For me the main use case for searching is finding something "like" the word I typed. Of course we cannot all have big analysis tools to offer auto correction and recommendations, but we can at least allow users to type a word and expect the search to return everything that contains this word. And only if the user wants to explicitly search for an exact match, they enter some extra syntax or tick a box somewhere.

If you search only ever will allow those 3 options (contains, exact, not) and you do not want to build a whole, advanced search page, than 'contains' could be used by default, 'not' could be a syntax you explain in a text next/below the field (or a hint tool tip) and 'exact match' a small checkbox (or a syntax tool tip).

I hope this helps.

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