What is faceted navigation?

Faceted navigation simplifies site search by presenting shoppers with a smart, logical user interface.

Facets vs filters

What’s the difference between facets and filters? People often confuse facets and filters because they both help searchers narrow down a large list of items. But here’s the difference:

Filters are applied globally, and the set of filtering options remains the same regardless of previous selections.

Faceted navigation is different. Each selection returns a subcategory of new choices (facets) that may change depending upon the previous selection. More importantly, facets are not applied globally. So if you search for “red shirts,” you could apply a “mens clothing” filter, or a “long sleeve” facet.

When it’s used for ecommerce, faceted navigation gives the user many filtering options to sort through various product attributes and drill their shopping down to the exact type of product they need. This is exceptionally helpful for sites with large product catalogs, apparel stores and any instance when searchers may sort by product attributes that don’t warrant their own category.

For example, a user shopping for shoes could filter by many possible combinations, including color, material, size, style and price range. So if they’re looking for green leather sandals in a size 7 for under $200, faceted navigation will let them arrive at a product list that fits that criteria. “Green sandals” or “size 7” sandals don’t warrant their own category or subcategory page, let alone “size 7 green sandals.”

So faceted navigation is an elegant way to address a complex set of user preferences. It’s far more elegant than, say, building a nearly-infinite number of landing pages and creating a way for the user to navigate through them.