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Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success by Greg Nudelman

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CHAPTER 10

THE MYSTERY OF FILTERING BY SORTING

Filtering by Sorting: It Was Colonel Mustard in the Study PAGE 156

The Mystery of Filtering by Sorting PAGE 156

Five Myths of Sorting PAGE 157

Case Study: Redesigning Hotmail Sorting PAGE 166

What is the difference between filtering and sorting for a search query? Any SQL developer would tell you that sort translates to a SQL ORDER BY statement, whereas a SQL WHERE clause performs a filter. However, the practical distinction between sorting and filtering in the minds of typical ecommerce customers becomes more vague as the number of search results increases beyond a few pages. I've called this phenomenon “filtering by sorting”, and it calls into question much of the conventional wisdom around the design of sort and filtering controls.

FILTERING BY SORTING: IT WAS COLONEL MUSTARD IN THE STUDY

During one particularly memorable usability study involving filtering and sorting, my first participant—who I immediately dubbed Colonel Mustard because of his resemblance to the character in Milton Brothers' Classic Game of Clue—kept referring to the sort control as a “filter”. During the think-aloud portion of the usability test, he repeatedly said, “I am filtering by price,” while manipulating an HTML drop-down list that we'd clearly labeled Sort By: Price: Low to High. Despite his confusion, this participant was getting exactly what he was expecting—that is, lower-priced items—using the Sort By control, so sorting was working fine in helping ...

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