We've got a highly structured hierarchy, which can be navigated using breadcrumbs. It does contain same keyword in some edge cases.

So imagine that our hierarchy looks like this:

  1. Beer
    • Beer By Type
      • Beer Type 1
      • Beer Type 2
      • Beer Type 3
    • Beer By Origin
      • Beer Origin 1
      • Beer Origin 2
      • Beer Origin 3
      • Beer Origin 4
      • Beer Origin 5

And so on. There are some edge cases where we have around 500 categories with Beer in its name.

Now the issue is that our system can run a search in this hierarchy and present a flat list of categories.

It works fine, if user is quite specific or sub-hierarchy is not too nested, however users are left out without context (path to specific category) and it gets even worse when you're getting 500 categories back in this edge case.

Sample use case:

  1. User types in a search box
  2. User gets list below
  3. Imagine what happens if there are over 500 categories
  4. Pardon my mockup skills


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

How would someone fix it by adding context to each item and not overwhelming user with tons of selections?

  • If I understand right you want breadcrumbs to make it clear for people 'how far they're in' A possibility is to use dots like Home > beer type > ... > beer type 1 or something. Nov 3, 2015 at 13:35
  • could you clarify what's the purpose of this? I mean, what do users need? To search items? Categories? etc Nov 3, 2015 at 13:39
  • @KeesSonnema That's correct. There are two problems here. When a flat list is present, user loses context(how deep in hierarchy they are) Nov 3, 2015 at 13:42
  • @rewobs, Searching categories in hierarchy. I'll update answer and include sample use case. Nov 3, 2015 at 13:42
  • why do they need to know how deep in the hierarchy they are? Nov 3, 2015 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Instead of forcing a way of reaching a item/category, I would try the oppossite, first show the childs and filter by its parents. There's something e-commerce sites do.

Just show the most relevant results (most popular, most selled, etc) and let the users filter afterwards.

For example, Ebay uses a left panel for category filter, offers "related searchs" at the top and a dropdown for category search too.

The important thing is to give the users choices and paths to get to the results they want to keep it natural for them, you can't do magic if there are thousands results.

Additionally you could be the users the chance to "pin" a certain category so they can later access it directly.

enter image description here

  • I know it's quite hard to tell what would be recommended facets, when you don't know what data is available, but perhaps you have some suggestions? If no, I'll wait a while to accept your answer, in case someone will come with something outstanding (I just don't want to un-accept your answer) Nov 3, 2015 at 14:13
  • "when you don't know what data is available" Are you telling me that the users won't know what they are looking for until they navigate through cathegories? (like pure discovering) If so, that's not a normal behavior or use case, if users see a search bar they will run to it an try to search. If for some reason they don't have an idea what's searchable, the home page should orient them. Nov 3, 2015 at 14:24
  • No, pardon my english. I was wondering whether you can suggest some broadly used facet-types, but at the same time I was implying that it would be hard to do it for you without knowing data(categories that we have in our trees). Just ignore it. Nov 3, 2015 at 14:40

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