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.
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 ...