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I have a part of a system used for searching for / viewing recent or past transactions. The system will be used in more than one store, and transactions could have happened in any of the stores. You should be able to view a transaction from any store, regardless of the store you are currently in, therefore when searching for a transaction you must provide the Transaction ID, the Store ID and the date of the transaction.

However, in reality the majority of searches will only be on transactions in the current store, and since each system is registered to a store, I thought it would be okay to presume that the user will want to use their current store. However, in testing it appears strange that one field is pre-filled in when the user clicks search, while the others remain empty. I feel it gives the impression that 188 (or whatever store id is filled in) is the only ID that can be searched.Current Search Form

One solution I considered was to have the auto suggested Store ID in a greyed out font, that would still work if the user presses search without changing, but will change to the standard font if they choose to enter an alternate value. New Idea for Form

However to me, this looks more like a prompt or placeholder text, and I imagine most users would tab through the form and just fill their store ID in each time, slightly defeating the point of auot filling the field.

So my question is, when should a form presume an entry for the user? Is it when the auto-filled value will be used 90% of the time, or should the system never make that sort of presumtion for a user?

Edit Also, as a continuation of the question, presuming that the system should actually suggest the value in the first place, should the system then continue to use the presumed store ID if the user's search returns no results? If they get an error message saying "Sorry, your search returned no results. Please review the information and try again.", should all the fields be cleared, all fields but the Store ID, or should none of the fields be cleared so the user can quickly see their mistake or, if there is no mistake, decide that no transaction took place with the information that they have?

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How about two radio buttons with the default being "current store"?

[o] Search current store     (188)
[ ] Search a different store [___]

And when searching the current store yields no results, you could flip the radio button to the second option and display a message:

No results found in current store. Would you like to try a different store?

[ ] Search current store     (188)
[o] Search a different store [___]
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You can sidestep the issue in this case by leaving the number blank, and adding text to the right or under it saying 'if left blank we will search store 188'.

  • I like this solution, keeps it simple and still allows the functionality to be there should the user want it. Thanks! – Harvey May 27 '16 at 17:33
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One design standard to keep in mind is that applications should communicate with the user in the language that the user understands, not in the language used directly by CRUD operations.

In this example, store ID 188 means nothing to a user, but the system knows exactly what that means. I would suggest a prompt similar to what @PixelSnader explained, except that it should say

Store ID will default to your store.

or something similar so they know why to leave it alone 90% of the time. Other than that, everything he explains should be taken into account as well so that functionality does not appear hidden or more limited to the user for that field.

To address your edit, none of the fields should be cleared. The only added benefit to clearing the fields is that if they start a new search, they will already be cleared but in all other cases there are many disadvantages:

  1. They may need to re-look-up the store ID they were using again if they intentionally changed it.
  2. They can't be sure that what they entered was accurate or inaccurate because it was cleared before they had a chance to check.
  3. If they want to look up the same information again, they should be able to with minimum effort.

To offer the best of both worlds, just add a reset button at the bottom labeled "Clear Transaction Search".

  • Thanks for the reply. As to the Store ID not being used, it would be perfectly clear to anybody using this system the ID of the store they work it. Generally store IDs are used as short-hand for the store itself, so if an employee was asked which store they work in they are more likely to say 188 than the actual name. – Harvey May 28 '16 at 17:40
  • Well then look at it from a developer's perspective as well, you don't have to worry about dynamically populating the label, you can make it say the same thing for every store. – Patrick Roberts May 28 '16 at 17:43

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