How a Wayfair TV commercial spurred a 30-min conversation about search filtering

My husband and I are web developers; myself, a front end, and him, a back end. We were watching TV on Sunday morning and a commercial for Wayfair comes on. I mentioned how my manager visited Wayfair’s site to show how they display search filters. He pointed out that they display certain filters and dimensions in a disabled state depending on which filters have already been selected.

Certain filters cannot be selected because it seems there are no twin or queen sleeper sizes for loveseats

My husband mentioned that it would be a pain to do if his team were required to do something like that (they use Endeca). I can understand as my experience with search filtering (we use Elasticsearch where I work) showed that if a certain filter has been selected, any other filters not available would not appear with the search results.

To bring back all filters and then designate certain ones as “disabled” would require more coding on his part. He would have to loop through all filters (which may or may not be memory intensive, depending on the number of filters they had) and then create a data model that would set a flag to label each filter as “select-able” or not.

I replied that to explain this to a UX designer/product designer/business analyst, etc. can be a pain itself because they argue why can’t we just disable it when it’s not available. I would say because it’s not available, it’s not part of the data. When it’s not in the data, we can’t render it.

People, especially those who are non-technical, take for granted how much work goes into building for the web; how something that looks as simple as a disabled checkbox can require a considerable amount of thinking and effort.