A forgotten UX need: Selection by exclusion

Time to read: 3 minutes

Today I was advertised a lovely-looking wine subscription box. Seems genuinely smart, as it asks you flsvour preference questions, like “the evening is winding down, are you most likely to reach for a platter of cheese, a sponge cake, or macarons?”.

But. Like many other services like it, it does not account for managing selections using exclusion.

The recommendations it made me of three bottles included a Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety I cannot drink, as I feel that it smells of cat piss. (According to a winemaker, I am not alone)

I couldn’t remove the bottle from the list, but I could ask for another recommendation. *poof* it serves up another Sauvignon Blanc.

I ask again. *poof*. More cat piss.

At this point I decided I’d had enough of the “suggestions” and went to see the full list.

Where I found a filtering mechanism. That allowed me to select what I wanted, had about 50 options, ONE of which was Ca… Sauvignon Blanc.

Did I select all 49, to make sure SB was excluded?

Nobody in their right mind would. I considered it. And decided “fuck this, I have no patience for bad design today”.

So I looked at the full list of white wines, filtering out the SB with my eyeballs.

Efficient? No.

Pleasant? No.

Did it make me love the brand? Hell no.

Their subscription box is still cute. And they do have one bottle of my favourite white variety (Malagouzia). So I just might order the first box, let a second one arrive – winter, and friendly house visits, will happen – and then cancel.

But it also means I’ll have to scroll through EVERYTHING every time I want to pick a nice wine.

And I do this mechanic of dumpster diving nearly every single day. Because I watch netflix and amazon prime content.

There is no way to tell either of those platforms “i hate horror” or “no more trash romance” or “unless it’s a female superhero main character I’ll pass” or “remove all reality tv except selling sunset and any home decoration or renovation shows”.

I cannot tell them what I hate.

Or just dislike.

We have been so keen to personalise to what people like, that we have completely forgotten that what humans feel more strongly than “like” is “dislike”.

And that the more you shove things people DISlike under their noses, the more they will avoid you.

So as I sit here, ranting – educationally? – about something I myself dislike, I wonder how long before the more mainstream web services – and here I have to look to Google, Amazon, and Meta, sadly – start to introduce the “dislike” feature.

The “never show me this again” feature.

I need it.

I believe many people need it.

Perhaps many who didn’t know they did until they read this and are now thinking “oh, I could eradicate reality tv from my netflix? Daaaamn!” or “Instagram without fitness content? Gimme gimme gimme”.

Eliminating options, when there are too many, and you aren’t looking for something specific, would simplify the shortlisting process. It is how I ended up choosing Engineering as a major, it was the most viable option from the shortlist I created by eliminating majors I was not interested in.

Task analysis shows that to make a final choice, we make a shortlist of finalists that we compare. When you’re looking for a cheap flight to Paris, the prioritisation is obvious. But when you are exploring the offering from a wine subscription service but don’t have definite desires, you would need elimination as a shortlisting method, as you explore.

On my way to see a friend right after I wrote this post (yes, on the tube… just the right amount of idleness), I saw this billboard.

It suggests that “getting an offer on bananas if you don’t like bananas that’s bananas!”. And it suggests signing up for the company’s shopping app to receive savings on things you do buy.

Which is kind of good, right? Except I guarantee you that the app will not include a “I don’t like bananas” setting. I tried downloading it to find out, but it asks you to scan your physical nectar card… which I now carry in my digital wallet… so it kind of failed at the first hurdle. OOooops!

If someone does have it, can you tell it “I don’t like bananas?”. I’d really like to know!