I have a question and I've searched all over the web for some inspiration but all the solutions are either unwieldy (the server load would be attrocious) or would blow out a user's eyes with the cognitive load. Hopefully you guys can help me out here. This is for a web app.

Has anyone ever done an enterprise level hierarchial multi-select?

Warning, shown below is cognitive load / choice paradox here:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

I've read the other response here which makes more sense on a simple list: Presenting Hierarchical Options

However, the challenge I have with this is multi-fold:

  1. The feasibility of displaying all the data in a single list = an order of magnitude of waiting time.

  2. The list of tier2 items could be up to 100, and list of total children could be 1000s (it's dynamic).

  3. Between parent categories the children names could equate. Within parent categories, child names will not repeat.

Another idea I've tried to relieve the server load:


download bmml source


  1. Separates the relationship of the parent and children selection items.

  2. Difficult to associate the top level hierarchy as either a filter for the children or a selection unto itself or both. Just lack of clarity there.

  3. Selecting a parent automatically selects children. Logic issue of whether to show the children so the user can single deselect each child, or to display the parent as a tag.

Does anyone know any other ways to portray this on an enterprise level scale?

I need a solution that fits a limited height space (200px max) as it's a control that is stacked with other filter controls. Ideally, responsive as well.

Any ideas?

1 Answer 1


The general trend in IA for solving this type of problem is to use what is most commonly known as Faceted Navigation.

To solve the choice overload and performance issues, the faceted navigation needs to first present only the most relevant filters/attributes in an intelligent manner, and second allow searching with auto-complete to access deep filters/attributes from a very large set.

LinkedIn does a pretty good job of this (attached). They attempt to intelligently present the filters/attributes that are most relevant (location, industry), and where there exists more options, they show you how many and allow you to search with autocomplete to access them.

enter image description here

  • Interesting article and concept. How does this incorporate selection of both parent and child? As in the first example in my question, User could select Fruit and Potatoes. (a real scenario). The purpose of the filter is to narrow the list and perform a bulk action on many, not to narrow down to one query.
    – Pdxd
    Jun 3, 2015 at 21:35

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