Sep 6, 2021

Why I absolutely HATE Multi-Select Picklists

Post by 
Michael Muse

et me ask you a question. What’s better than one of something? 

Multi of something, that’s what.

So imagine my quizzical face when first presented with this choice: 

Why would you ever not just ... choose more!  (dont do this)

OK, great work, we chose more. Only a savage would sacrifice their right to choice. We live in a civilized society. We want for nothing.

So we've created multi-select picklist field. Great! Wow, look at our team dutifully picking whatever they want from the list of options. What could possibly go wrong?

And check out the glorious UI they use to do it, below. Winning options become ‘Chosen’. The loser options can ride the pine.  Clarity emerges, right before our eyes:

OK, lets just go ahead and click the save button and admire our "Chosen" options on the actual page ... and …

I couldnt think think of a single better way for that first UI to look, but this second way is clearly IT. We’ll pick a spot in the Louvre for it later. 

Alright, so quick update, VP of Businessing is already excited about all the data we're collecting! He ran a report filtered on “What’s for dinner tonight” equals “Pizza”, and it came up blank. Even though we've definitely chosen Pizza a bunch. Huh... Ok after searching on Google, some sassy RTFM commenter thinks this is user error. The value isn't EQUAL to pizza, it just CONTAINS the word.

So, we’ll just tell our VP to remember to change that “equals” to “includesif and only when the field he’s filtering on is a multi-select picklist. He absolutely loves remembering details like that. He’ll probably just keep building reports himself instead of dumping everything on us going forward. Hey speak of the devil, he wants us to build him a report to see how often we picked Pizza night. Maybe Multi-Select Picklists are confusing to end users, but we're a #AwesomeAdmin. This is our time to shine, so lets build that report. In our data, we chose pizza on two different nights and had one non-pizza night.

So, let’s whip up a quick report, which will obviously show that we chose pizza for 2/3rds or 66% of our responses:

Hm. Not seeing a 66 anywhere. Pizza is part of a 33% wedge twice. Interesting, because we just built a pie chart with a non-multi-select picklist yesterday and had no issue! OK, as mentioned previously, we're a #AwewsomeAdmin, so the obvious move is to just search Google some more for how to do this.

Wow, these other admins in the same situation tried all sorts of crazy complicated things. None of them seemed to make it back to base camp. OK so we’ll just tell our VP it isn’t possible. Even though he also remembers the pie chart from yesterday. That’ll earn us some trust.

Alright, last up, another minor ask. Let’s build a quick formula field to calculate a Health Score for the meal. Easy enough:

What's that error?!

It appears that multi-Select picklists are basically not useable in the vast majority of formulas. Another feature blaming its own failure on our beloved Multi-Select Picklist. But wait, check out that call to action in the error message in the bottom right! Tell me more!

“Tell me more” perfectly captures how we feel in this moment:

At least our forehead is nice and mushy now from contact with our monitor. Time to call it a day. We’ll inform the team that their requests are impossible tomorrow, they'll love that! And if they don't love it, of course at least they’ll understand and sympathize. As any #AwesomeAdmin knows, one rule matters above all to your users.

It’s the thought that counts, results be damned!


Multi-Select picklists, thanks for nothin!

P.S. Here are some more thorough, less sarcastic posts explaining this topic in more depth. We just tried to cover the most common issues people run into. Rest assured, there are many more pitfalls!

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