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Periodically we publish thoughts and ideas about he state of the web and the state of structured data publishing. Topics range from small business marketing to cost efficient advertising.

Why Faceted Search Is The Most Honest Kind of Search

Faceted Search

Inspired by this Stack Overflow question of What is Faceted Search? I thought we’d look a bit at the fundamentals of faceted search technology.

A while back we wrote about the wonders of faceted search. It’s the best way to search through content because it gives you, the user, the ability to find exactly what you want. Not what an algorithm thinks you might want.

Most faceted search solutions give you a set of filters to choose from. Presenting a set of options eradicates any ambiguity the user might have about the data and also gives them specific criteria to begin the filtering and sorting process.

Being able to define your personal search criteria with a series of clicks gives you full control over your web experience. You don’t have to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes, because you are directly interacting with a defined set of data.

Finding The Needles In The Haystack

In the image above you can see faceted search explained in diagram form. Most faceted search applications will provide a set of criteria that you can methodically drill-down from general to specific. For instance, if you had a set of haystacks and you only wanted to see the haystacks that had needles in them, you’d be able to check the needles button and find only the haystacks that fit your preference.

But let’s say there’s a variety of needles in these haystacks. Pointy needles, dull needles, sparkly needles. All the needles you can think of. With faceted search you can filter results to see only haystacks that contain pointy needles.

The example may be somewhat absurd, but it’s not far from the truth.

Giving You Total & Complete Control

One of the great things about faceted search is that it’s very honest with you.

When faceted search is done right, you have a complete understanding of why you’re seeing the certain results. There’s no algorithm assuming things about you and your preferences. It’s a very literally input-output relationship. The user puts in “I want to see this” and the output is “okay, here is this.

In the modern web, being quick & efficient wins. If you can reduce user frustration by delivering the results your users wants to see, why wouldn’t you? Faceted search allows for that complete control of data. It’s the most efficient way to give your users content tailored to them without having to create hundreds of web pages that begin “The best for…”

So that’s faceted search 101. It’s a very surface level explanation. We’ll dive into some more complex and thorough use cases in the coming weeks. In the mean time, if you have any questions please leave a comment. Or, send us a tweet – @WebKite.


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