Once again I have to turn to these boards for help :) We are implementing a web based RIA where users need to fill in a form and build a list of Products on it. The list of products is build by selecting desired products from the big products database. Each Product is characterized by only two attributes: Code and Name.
ATM we have a "type ahead" field which is used for Products' selection. The field works similarly to the google search, i.e. users type fragment of the Product name or code and app suggests in a drop down the products which contain said fragment. For performance / screen real estate reasons the number of entries displayed in the drop down is limited to about 20.
But we found out that users have problems building the products lists as they need to know beforehand pretty well the products' names / codes (or fragments thereof).
Additionally, at the moment the type ahead does not support fuzzy / wildcard matching so users cannot make any misspellings when typing.
The first improvement proposed is to implement the wildcard / fuzzy search on the type ahead which would solve the issue of misspellings. But it would not solve the issue of users not knowing what they are looking for...
So the second improvement which was proposed was to implement a multi selection modal lookup of products, which would allow the users to scroll up / down and do a quick narrowing searches. As the products have only code / name, the product list would look like a very long list of phone contacts. The problem is that the large number of products (over 1.000) makes it hard to fit it on several manageable screens. Also, performance of such list might be a concern in web environment.
The question I have is: do you know of better ways of displaying / lookups on large data sets than long vertical scrollable lists?