What is a faceted search?
The User Interface of a website has changed in recent years, modern web design techniques now allow more content to be exposed to users more quickly than was possible previously, features like cascading menu structures, mega navigation bars and funnels within the website landing page that direct users to the content they are seeking are examples of these techniques.

When a user knows what they are after, by name part number, SKU of some other identifying characteristic like colour, size, brand the best way for them to find it is often via a search.

Key Word Search

Key word searches on websites are common, most websites will have them, for searching through static content on a website these are great, simply typing in the word you are searching for and the search will return the matching results. This is great for static content (general page data) as opposed to dynamic multi optioned product data.

The key word search will present a list of results that allow the user to identify the item they were seeking, click on it, and be taken to the related page.

Faceted Search

When the content to be searched is more complex in structure, typically content associated with product data, more complex search tools are required. This is when a faceted search tool can provide an interesting alternative.

A faceted search will allow the results of a search to be grouped by attributes defined by the website developer or webmaster, a great example of this may be a range of products that share the following common attributes:

  • Name
  • SKU
  • Size
  • Colour
  • Brand

If a user was to search for a particular product with a keyword search, they may (if the key word search is complex enough) be able to enter in a size, a colour and a brand and have a result set returned to them that may be what they are searching for, if they however want to refine the search, it is more than likely they will lose their search conditions if they use the browser back button.

Enter the faceted search, with the faceted search a user is able to enter an attribute, say size = "Large" and search, the search results returned will contain all products where the size attributes = "Large" + a listing and associated count of all other indexed attributes associated with the product. So you may see:

  • Size = "Large"
  • Colour
    • Blue (10) - The number displayed in brackets designates the number of "Large" products available in "Blue"
    • Black (8)
    • Green (5)
  • Brand:
    • Nike (15) - The number displayed in brackets designates the number of "Large" products made by "Nike""
    • Adidas (12)
    • Huffer (5)

The user is then able to further refine their search by clicking on a facet, with the result display changing based on the refinements selected.