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Usability testing my filter


I'm just thinking through the best way to code a filter for a property search application. I was planning
on having three drop down lists like so:

Country        Region        Town
Spain        Marbella            Harbour
        Costa Blanca    Mountains

As you pick a country drop down two would filter, to show only regions in spain, then as you pick
a region it would filter the towns.

What do you think of this as a way to filter out properties, can you see any problems?

One thought I had is that you need to know the country first, then region, then town as opposed
to being able to jump straight to a town.

Would appreciate everyones thoughts on this.

Monday, September 25, 2006
Why not populate the Town dropdown with all towns when Country and Region are set to “All”? Likewise, show all towns in the Country when the Region is set to “All”? If the user knows the town, and doesn’t mind typing or a lot scrolling (or can recognize the town but *doesn’t* know the region), they can skip to the Town dropdown. Otherwise users can filter the Town dropdown first by Country and/or Region.

Couple of other things to consider:

1. If the user must select down to the Town-level of specificity, consider making it so that selecting Country or Region automatically advances the user to the next dropdown list, and opens it in order to save the user a click or two.

2. If space allows, use list boxes rather than dropdowns. This saves the click of opening the dropdown and provides easy-to-see example values for each filter so the user knows what it means (e.g., is a Region something like “Costa Blanca” or “Northwest”).

3. If the number of combinations of possibilities for two or more levels in your hierarchy is always small (e.g., 20 or less, and maybe even 100 or less for list boxes), consider “flattening” your hierarchy by combining the two levels into on list. If users generally search by the higher level, list it first in the combined list (“Costa del Sol - Marbella”). Otherwise, list the lower level first and then (if helpful) include the second level (“Marbella (in Costa del Sol)”).

4. If your items to choose are exhaustive (i.e., you have something for just about anything the user can imagine), consider a free-text Search box design instead of force-choice lists, where the user can type “Marbella,” “Marbella Spain,” or whatever. Parse the text and search all fields for all text segments for matches. Don’t do this if you can’t provide matches for whatever the user might type. If the user enters “Torre del Mar” and gets no results, s/he can’t tell if it’s because you don’t have it, or if maybe it’s misspelled or something.

5. If your users can edit the hierarchy (e.g., add and remove towns), use a tree control.
Michael Zuschlag Send private email
Monday, September 25, 2006
Michael, thanks for your comments.

The way I planned to have the drop downs working was by starting off displaying only one.


When they select from this drop down, I show drop down two like so:

Spain    All

Then with drop down three:

Spain    Costa Del Sol    All

Does this make sense? Thats's why allowing them to jump to drop down two or three would be mean displaying them all the time and not as required.

Monday, September 25, 2006
Have you created any use cases for typical users of your application?  Does it make sense to have the Region and City hidden?  For all users?  What about Power Users, who would be frustrated by having to choose the Country, then the Region, to get the City selection.  What about the user who doesn't know what Region the City they are looking for is?  As a US resident, I don't know any of the Regions in Spain.  Someone from France probably doesn't know which State or County some arbitrary city in the US is in.

This is where use cases will help you.  Who are your intended users?  How will they use your app?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

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