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I am setting up some product filters for my site. I was getting quite confused until I got my head around it all.

So lets take something simple, like a clothing site, with product filters. Now some of the filters might be brands. If I check multiple brands e.g. Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, I expect to see all selected brands in the results, so just Calvin Klein OR Ralph Lauren.

But then there may be another section of filters called features, and I might select that I want a hood, and want pockets for example. Here I would expect to see clothes only with a hood AND pockets. i.e. Not clothes with a hood OR pockets.

So how do you know when to make a filter mutually inclusive or exclusive? I guess that is fairly simple, you just need to put yourself in the seat of the user and determine what you would expect to see if you chose certain filters.

But how is the user supposed to know? I guess they might just experiment with the filters and see what works, but they might not have got it right, and missed the product they wanted to buy. So perhaps some sort of note? Or a different kind of way to show its added to the filter, radio buttons instead of a check box for example, if the option is mutually exclusive.

Does anyone else have any ideas? Or am I over-examining this?

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  • How about an 'Add criteria' button... brings up the same list of options (but without Hood if that's what you already selected) Sep 29 '16 at 8:19
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Treat anything that isn't mutually exclusive as an AND. If you want Hoods OR Pockets, that is two distinct searches.


Take a look at Amazon, they've eliminated all subjectivity by making separate category as AND and within a category as OR. They are able to achieve this by making it impossible to select multiple items when items are not mutually exclusive. You can select multiple brands, but not multiple price ranges.

  • $25 or less
  • $50 or less (if you want $25 and 50, choose me)
  • $100 or less (if you want $25, 50, and 100, choose me)

Choose the highest price you're willing to pay, or choose the lowest rating you're willing to buy. Customers don't have to think about it, it just does what they expect.

For your case, you could separate your Features into distinct feature sets: Hoods (yes/no), Pockets (0,1,2,4,5,17), etc.

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  • My wife finds the above options infuriating, as she frequently wants to browse items in, say, the $50-$100 bracket, starting with the cheapest first. She would greatly appreciate it if we could find a more refined solution! Sep 29 '16 at 8:04
  • @cheersphilip Amazon allows you to pick under $100, then further refine it with a low and high option, so you could then change it to $55 to $80, which I agree is better than big ranges. I often want to sort with cheapest first, but filter out all the accessories that cost <$10.
    – Chris G
    Sep 29 '16 at 20:54
  • yes, this is exactly the use case! You're right, Amazon do do this - bad example on my side. To be fair it's probably more smaller online retailers who are guilty of this. Sorry, too lazy to research properly :P Sep 30 '16 at 8:04
  • @cheersphilip wasn't trying to call you out, but rather to call out a good way to do it. I see what you're describing all the time, and it is infuriating (that's an overstatement, it's more mildly annoying, but it does reduce my ability to find what I want thus lowering my chances of buying from that retailer)
    – Chris G
    Sep 30 '16 at 15:10

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