Exploring Facets Beyond eCommerce

Lynn Leitte   March 9, 2009
dan_clarkeFacets expose a range of data points for greater specificity. (via)

Recently a colleague asked for examples of faceted navigation that employed more than just lists of data points. She was, in particular, looking for unique or appealing interaction design using facets. There’s plenty of faceted navigation out there these days, but it is quite constrained to eCommerce sites and therein tied to data points for color, price, brand, and size.

Generally, the executions are straightforward, useful, and a bit humdrum. Other that the impressive MoodStream by the Getty Institute, the selection of sites building amazing interaction from facets is quite thin. Kayak put a stellar, if visually tame, implementation on their travel site. Etsy does nice things with interaction design, but does a terrible job connecting the facets. You can’t filter on multiple values, to the point where it can’t be considered faceted navigation. FoodPairing has a very intriguing graph display, but relationships are narrow and the interaction is generally constrained to the text links rather than the graph. What’s a facet lover to do?

Aside from the interaction design question, the investigation made me puzzle over why faceted navigation is being used almost exclusively for eCommerce. There is so much other content out there with multiple access points and relevance to more than a single idea. There are very few content items, such as a stock quote, that have only a single characteristic of interest. Why not use faceted navigation for manuals, instructions, news articles, and any other content you can think of? Do IAs, IxDs, and even CSs think it’s not relevant unless considering how to drill a consumer down to the right pair of women’s-brown-high heel-leather-Via Spiga-size 9? What if I’m looking for a webinar-mobile-managing employees-Laurence Peter-construction?

Is faceted navigation considered too complicated to construct? Too heavy a maintenance burden? Are there usability issues? Consumer/end user acceptance issues? Is it only appropriate when there is an enormous volume of content? Let’s talk about what makes us shy away from it and what makes us embrace it.

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  1. […] faceted classification is being used on editorial sites now. Sometimes it’s third party, in case of the Washington Post and […]

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