All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

Catalog page filtering: Make sure your filter levels match your customer needs
September 10, 2009, 4:49 am
Filed under: form design, usability basics, usability testing, visual design

I need (ok, maybe not NEED) to buy a new TV, so was poking around to find the best reviews and deals.  I need the TV to be a very specific size to it will fit inside an existing cabinet — not an unusual request these days.  But many of the sites I looked at only let you filter down to a range of sizes, not a specific size.  Depending on the number of TV’s offered, this can range from annoying to downright tedious and unfriendly.

In my case, I can take a 40″ maximum screen.  I’d like to look at a few 37″ ones too.  Here’s my experience:

  • Amazon
    6,584 TV’s (they’re not called Amazon for nothing!).  The closest I can narrow down is either 30-39″, or 40-49″.  There are 1200 TV’s in the 40-49″ range, 1358 in the 30-39″ range.  I don’t really want to narrow it to LCD (I’d like to be open to LED and Plasma at this point), but I will.  Now there are 679 in the larger screen range.  Better, but still way too many for me to scan through to find just the 40″ ones.  In fact, I’m stuck.  What do I end up doing?  Scanning the first two pages for 40″ TV’s and stopping after I’ve seen 4 or 5.  But I’m wary that I may have missed the “perfect” 40″ TV because it’s buried in the pack somewhere.
  • Best Buy
    Similar experience:  61 TVs in the 40-49″ range.  If I actually go through the whole tedious exercise of looking at the entire list, I see there are only 13 40″ TV’s.  Sure wish I could have narrowed it down that way.
  • Samsung solves this problem in a great way – they use a slider for screensize that lets you set the field as wide or narrow as you want.  Kudos to Samsung!
  • NexTag gets the award for the most annoying screensize selector:  they have a 30-40″ category and a 40-50″ category.  Great – now I have to look in BOTH categories to find the 40″ TV’s, because I don’t have confidence which one they’re in.

Lesson:  Samsung has done their homework.  They know their customer, and know that people often need to shop for TV’s by screensize, so have provided an easy way to do that.  In B2B applications, if you know your customers often need to shop to meet very specific specs, make sure those specs are easy to narrow down.


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