BC tip: BBC News – A very usable filtering system

Elegant handling of complex filters draws readers in to a collection of articles on British jihadists.

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The Feature

The BBC news website has a database of over 250 British jihadists, which it claims is ‘the most comprehensive public record of its kind’.

It presents this information on a standard page using a series of filters which control the profiles of jihadists in real time further down the page.

There are two levels of buttons: the first, colour coded, allows users to filter by the current status of the individuals. The next level can be used to narrow down by category, such as ‘Attack planners’ or ‘Converts’.

Below this three drop-down lists allow further refinement by age, gender and hometown. Finally there is a free text name search, a results counter, and the option to view the profiles in grid or list format.

The profiles themselves display head shots where available, and on click, display summary details of the individuals with links to further articles featuring them on the BBC web estate.

The Takeaway

A jihadist database may not have obvious parallels with online corporate communications, but the filtering system is notable for the way it elegantly allows users to drill down into information, and then discover related pages.

Knowing what we do of the BBC’s approach to website usability, we expect this will have been rigorously tested.

It packs a lot of functionality into a compact area. The filters are complex and multi-layered, yet the layout is easy to understand and use. The combination of colour coding, real-time results, buttons used with drop-downs, and the results counter means that the effect of the user’s filtering choices is immediately obvious, and can be quickly undone or amended. It also enables browsing or targeted searching.

The BBC’s filtering system could be applied to any area of a corporate digital site that needs to present a lot of information, and onward links, in a usable way. News and feature repositories, product selectors and even board and committee pages could benefit.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985