Problem summary

The users needs to conduct a search using contextual filters that narrow the search results.



  • Use when the search results for a query are very numerous and reviewing them would be very time consuming.
  • Use when search results can be categorized into filters: the search must be contextual.
  • Do not use when your search is not easily categorized into filters.

More examples


Whenever you make a change to any input fields, the search results are immediately updated without refreshing the page. This is a variation of the Table Filter pattern. The biggest difference between the two is the feedback time when making changes.

You start out by having one big pot of items you wish to search. This can be emails in your inbox, products in your webshop, or maybe people in your address book. What all these items have in common is that they can be categorized. Emails can be filtered by subject, sender, or receiver. Products can be filtered by price for instance, and the people in your address book can possibly be filtered by job positions.

Present the user with a list filter categories, and let the user filter these by inserting input in text boxes, choosing options in dropdown boxes or even through checkboxes or radiobuttons. Whenever the user makes a change to any of the input fields, the results are automatically updated.


The live filter pattern has been brought up by Pete Forde. He suggests moving from the traditional search paradigm to a filter paradigm:

With a search, you start off with nothing and potentially end up with nothing. Counter to this approach is filtering, where we present everything available, and then encourage the user to progressively remove what they do not need.

Using the live filter pattern moves the search from a monologue to a conversation. The user can progressively remove what they don’t need step by step and receive feedback immediately.

When you weigh your decision to use this filter, consider whether the pattern complicates or simplifies search. If it does anything else than simplify finding the correct search result, choose another solution.

This article has been commented 15 times.

More examples of the Live Filter pattern See all 10 example screenshots


  • 15962db3bafebdaa725a4c5709ccd932

    Nicolas on Feb 01, 2008

    Piece of shit. You claim to give UI patterns, and then you talk ONLY about web apps???

  • 4d94d8fb61ae78f3659c869ee1a7d477

    Gary Bartos on Feb 01, 2008

    Nicely done, Anders! As a designer/developer of desktop-bound apps, and as someone who has studied design in depth, I will counter the previous comment by claiming that any good designer can see value even if some UI patterns are specific to the web.

    Sometimes all a designer needs is an inspiration from a few sentences and screenshots. A site like yours makes this possible, and I consider the site a valuable resource.

    For a general review of design, I recommend the book Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holden, and Butler.

  • A8333ca6ed6ce5aaf7a823efd3eebe70

    racerx on Feb 01, 2008

    I love this site. Programmers often have a hard time understanding that their skills in UI stink and the users of there sites would agree. What good is your site if it is unclear how use it?

  • 9c36e3da7a7e9459f356fdce3e91142a

    The Checker on Feb 01, 2008

    Good points. One thing though, you need to spell check your copy. Even at the top of your home page, “It has long been common practise to use recurring[…]” — “practice” is misspelled.

  • C09db29a9d5d51277abd43a31bff72e5

    Jeremy Gugenheim on Feb 02, 2008

    Nicolas simply proves that this is a useful site. We have one set of eyes and we see the whole world through them. All UIs should conform to our views of the world. Intuition, comfort, whatever skill we use to navigate an application, we can only use if the application is navigable. For most people it is comfort. Developers may use intuition but only because we use this stuff every day. Which is one reason I got out of development – it is full of people who know that their way is the only way. Tosh. Utter tosh. Since when has a web site not been an application? Think about it – an ATM is an application, but it behaves a lot like a web site. a kettle is an application but doesn’t behave anything like a web site. Amazon is a web site but behaves like an application. And they all require a UI. Good on you Anders, I look forward to seeing your site flourish – I’m dropping a bookmark here. Thanks.

  • 201bb78a2ed2e5c52c4f6d09542317a4

    greenmoss on Mar 01, 2008

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  • C24ce2d472e05babc779dd57a33852ec

    James Kelway on Mar 01, 2008

    Hi Anders. Great to see this site and it does fill some gaps already. Keep up the good work as sites like this and are too few and far between. Cheers

  • 9428b04ac35efb393d525b903f64405a

    Robert on Mar 11, 2008

    There is no ‘visit’ function on the links of the UI Design patterns list. How do i know witch one i have seen?

  • 29e46e03eb13e5cea3474606aa970f99

    Anders Toxboe on Mar 11, 2008

    Robert: Good point – I just added more correct link styling to cope for this.

  • Cf7f577c2515a126540793f9f5da2dd0

    Janko on Mar 26, 2008

    Good site. No matter what anyone thinks, I appreciate your efforts.

    P.S. RSS feeds would be nice :)

  • 1bf8de7c06589e928e8d99a1153f26e0

    Antonio on Mar 26, 2008

    I like this site. ¡Congratulations!

    How can someone contribute?

  • B68ed82d76e97b32a273964fba5ed1f4

    BerGriern on Mar 27, 2008

    Snx for you job!
    It has very much helped me!

  • Bf755e43f4fc85c0b55ba7c2098f9767

    Kevin Jensen on Apr 04, 2008

    Site is great but RSS feeds are necessary.

  • 04a0a41de52dba7d573d815112d4f726

    Scott on Apr 10, 2008

    Great site! Very useful!

  • F8c5269f99b15b074ff9094aadef5614

    Adarsh on Sep 21, 2010

    I think its good explanation. I have worked on both winforms and web apps and I feel it gives a lot of insight as to how to implement the pattern.
    Whether explained for web appp or winforms does not matter.I need the concept.

Comments have been closed