I have an app that asks users to

  1. Select a Map
  2. Select a year
  3. Select a query statistic from the U.S. Census from a dropdown; or
  4. Enter their own query statistic using provided reference to look up the API call

My issue is that I want to make maybe 100 different Census variables easily selectable, and wonder if having that many in a dropdown is too much? I wonder if the statistic selection should present a modal window with queries organized by type (housing, etc. . .) or what would be best.

How should I present ~100 options to a user in a way that makes sense without overwhelming them?

What I have now is below enter image description here

  • 1
    Are there options among the 100 that are more frequently used? Typically in such instances 20 percent account for 80 percent of use cases. Perhaps the top 10 or so could be displayed and then others as needed? Commented May 31, 2016 at 19:03
  • Good point Eric - It sounds like I need to study the use cases more carefully to determine the menu structure Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 4:37

3 Answers 3


The common (almost too common) way to provide choices of many options is often via the dropdown, but a flat list of options can be made easier to digest by grouping the items and, at the very least, ordering the items alphabetically. Say 10 ordered groups each with 10 ordered items in might be manageable.

A further refinement is to make the dropdown editable and provide auto suggestion to filter options as the user types.

You'll often see e-commerce stores using a megadrop down to provide many choices (for navigating). There's lots of different variations on the mega dropdown and a google image search may provide some inspiratiopn

John Lewis (of whom I'm a big fan - they have a good UX team) is a proponent of mega dropdowns and they sure do go all in! Currently, they have a modal multi-level mega dropdown menu with about 400 items in! Choices are grouped by department and then category.

John Lewis Mega Dropdown


Perhaps a searchable dropdown could fit your needs:

enter image description here

On opening, the dropdown will show you all possible choices, which you can filter by typing in the desired term.

  • 1
    While my first thought was also searchable dropdown, I don't think it's as appropriate in this case. As a user, I might not know exactly how my statistic is named (would it be called "population shift"? "movement"? ah- I see what I want - "moved from abroad"), so a browsable, categorized list would be more appropriate.
    – J. Dimeo
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 0:29
  • I understand how you're approaching this, but is this a function that the user will use only once? Because if it isn't, then they will greatly appreciate having the ability to filter the statistics to get to the one they need faster above having to also remember the category it was in (in what category was "moved from abroad" again? Ah yes, I remember, it was somewhere on the bottom right-hand side of the screen...I think). Commented May 30, 2016 at 14:36
  • Good question Gino - the app allows one to save the currently queried dataset, then create another for comparison. I expect users will be doing a lot of 1. Select population 2. Select an Ancestry to get a percentage etc. . Commented May 30, 2016 at 15:43
  • Why not offer both? Something similar to the mega dropdown, but it also includes a "filter by search" widget.
    – J. Dimeo
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 16:46
  • This is often called a combobox. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combo_box Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 23:26

You could try something like this. in terms of selection it's similar to mac osx navigation style. in the 1st column is the actual form and in the 2nd column is the option or input for the form selected. this means your input area are all shared by the 2nd column space. and selecting each field you want to enter changes the 2nd columnenter image description here

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