Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sliding Budgets

This time the doubt was mine

Me: Can I ask you something to validate a point in my mind?

Friend: Sure

Me: If you want to buy something, say an air ticket to Delhi will you say I’m ready to pay any amount between 5k and 10k for it or just say any amount below 10k? I.e. you are happy if it comes for 7k

Friend: neither, if I want to go to Delhi at any cost, I would just sort options with total price in ascending order and pick the best rate with best experience that I may get with the least trouble

Me: Fair enough. But here it’s not at any cost. You have a budget. My question is will you fix your budget as a range between amounts or only the max amount you are willing to pay

Friend: Not range will use max. I know why you are asking me this. It’s the slider right?

Me: Yes

Friend: That is nothing but bull shit, it has no use at all. I will never say I’m willing to pay an amount between 5k and 10k for my ticket. Why should I be ever worried about my min price?

Me: Well I can always ignore the left slider and always use the right slider but again there is a problem. I will never have my budget set for amounts like 11200, 9900 and 7600. Sliders make sense when you have to gradually increase or decrease something (volume control, brightness) or to block a specific time period (10.20am to 12.15pm) etc.

Friend: I’m happy to see the top of the range options. I am smart enough to choose the best within my budget. That slider proves nothing at all especially in a travel site

Me: I personally have never used it. I always sorted

Friend: The first time it was done was (I think) by kayak.com the travel search engine way back in 2005. They were new and were trying to break into the market and were adding all sorts of gizmos to the search form and came up with the stupid slider and now it proliferated into as many sites as I can see. I don’t think I have seen that in Amazon.

Sliders may be useful when you don’t know what you are looking for. E.g. you are going to buy an external hard drive and you wonder for your budget what amount of memory you will get. You put the range filter in the memory size and sort the price then you get a real good user experience because you know you have a need to have 10GB minimum and for future purposes you want to have room for up to 50GB. So you would look for a list of vendors/devices that sells something on 10GB and you wish to settle anything in between 30 or 40 GB range for the best price so you may have a good shopping experience. But to put a range filter on price is useless. Nobody would set a minimum budget

Me: Yes. It’s just the need of having a range to filter results and if yes whether a slider interaction makes sense. But I think we can’t say that a min budget is useless in all cases

Friend: which case do you think it will be useful?

Me: I have had budget ranges when I looked for buying gifts. I.e. a minimum amount I’m willing to shell out and a max amount cap

Friend: hmm fair enough
As I always say no feature is completely useless. It all depends on the use case
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