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I am working enhancing UX for filters on our eCommerce (desktop site). The navigation structure is broken into Categories and further sub categories. Filters can be applied at each level (categories & sub categories). My question is what is better approach when user is on Categories and applies filters

  1. To disables some of the sub-categories in the navigation because all of the products under these (disabled sub categories) got filtered out or

  2. Keep all the sub categories active, but if user goes to a specific sub- category that doesn't have any products matching to the filter applied, then auto reset the filter.

  • With either option, do you envision all subcategories being visible at all times? Can users choose more than one category at a time? – Andy Jan 14 '16 at 14:22
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Option #1 would be your best choice.

Disabling sub-categories in response to category selection would allow the user to quickly see how their category choice effects the available sub-categories.

In the example below, if I am ultimately looking for results in sub-category "Five" (which is currently disabled / greyed out), the interface suggests that I should try category "One".

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Automatically disabling sub-category options with no results would save the user a significant amount of time and effort as they would not need to select the sub-category to see that there are no results.

It is unlikely that the user would expect that selecting a sub-category would clear their selection(s), so I would advise against option #2. An auto-reset could cause a high level of user frustration. You would be asking them to start over before they knew that something was wrong.

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