Radio buttons versus drop downs for sorting product results

20 May 2009 - 7:44am
6 years ago
6 replies
2524 reads

I have recently started a website project with an external development
agency and we are going through the prototype stage of the design. On
a product listing page design I have placed radio buttons as the
means to sorting the already displayed content. This decision seems
logical and is based on the following online article points.

Jakob Nielson


The external agency differs in that they prefer drop downs. Has
anyone come across this issue? Does the choice matter? Any help or
advice would be most appreciated.

The design is a 2 row by 4 column grid of products with 7 sort
options. All fits on one row and appear to me to have adequet white


20 May 2009 - 9:28am
Severin Brettmeister

Hi Christopher,

I'm always a fan of "option-clearity". Which means, that the user can see all available options on a first glance. He/she can decide faster and directly, without wasting a click for opening the drop down.

So I would use radio buttons, too.

But the aesthetical layout plays an important role in that case. Cluttered or unpractically designed radio buttons are the worst.

All the best,

20 May 2009 - 9:33am
Severin Brettmeister

Followup: Certainly, the target group and main-purpose of the table/site is important, too.

If the user will use the table repeatedly and for a long time (habituation) and the radio buttons are wasting a lot of space, then the drop down could be the better choice.
Especially, when the functionality of the radio buttons or the drop down is rarely used.


20 May 2009 - 11:44am

Based on my prior experience - "to radio or to drop down" depends on a number of factors.

- Is your visual too cluttered? (Too much text means the user needs to think and read)
- Is the list of options going to grow in the future?

If you answer is 'Yes' to both of these question, drop-downs are the way to go. Unless the list gets too long. Then there are other options.

If the number of filters increase, the white space you have now may not exist.

If you are concern about usability, I would test it out on users but based on my experience and the interaction design patterns I see out there, I have seen a lot more drop down implementations that radio button implementations for filtering.

I would prefer a drop down if I put my usability hat on. Why? For an average user, a drop down shows them clearly what filter they have applid to the list of products they are filtering.

Just my 2 cents!


20 May 2009 - 1:47pm
Kevin Doyle

Severin and Pradeep offer excellent suggestions -- let me add one more
option to consider: a list menu. Instead of a drop down, make the menu
a list like the one here:

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20 May 2009 - 4:42pm
Severin Brettmeister

@Kevin: A multiline selection field would do a good job too. But I would drop the "select" button for more efficency.

20 May 2009 - 3:02pm

Thank you all for your comments.

Pradeep agree with your points. In my case the options won't expand
and I am even thinking of reducing them :)

The filter types are Price (Low), Price (High), Rating, Video, Best
Sellers, A-Z and Z-A. For those who are interested.

Must admit I would rather do some usability testing on points like
this as it would demystify the differences in opinion that I find
maybe I shall try and get some A/B testing and see which one gets
used the most.

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