web design practices
 Home Search About Feedback
Home >

Use of Faceted Classification

facet example

Unlike a simple hierarchical scheme, faceted classification gives the users the ability to find items based on more than one dimension. For example, some users shopping for jewelry may be most interested in browsing by particular type of jewelry (earrings, necklaces), while others are more interested in browsing by a particular material (gold, silver). “Material” and “type” are examples of facets; earrings, necklaces, gold, silver are examples of facet values.

Data below is from 75 leading e-commerce sites, collected in October, 2003. [sites examined]


Frequency of Faceted Classification

69% of sites made at least some use of faceted classification.

In four product categories (Computers, Gifts, Kitchen Ware, Music/Video) all sites within the category used faceted classification. In one product category (Office Supplies) no sites within the category made use of facets.


Advanced Search vs. Faceted Navigation

A faceted classification scheme may be implemented in an advanced search interface and/or as part of the navigational interface for browsing.

navigation facets

77% of sites using faceted classification provided faceted navigation, but no facet-based advanced search.

[example details]

advanced search/gift finder

6% of sites using faceted classification provided a facet-based advanced search or “gift finder,” but no faceted navigation.

[example details]

navigation and search

17% of sites provided both faceted navigation and a facet-based advanced search or gift finder.

[example details]


Equally-Weighted Facets vs. Main and Secondary Facets

In pages containing faceted navigation, the facets were either presented with equal visual weight (giving equal emphasis to each facet) or with clear main and secondary facets.

Equally-Weighted Facets

65% of pages with faceted navigation used equally weighted facets. In this case, the facets shared the same location on the page and used the same style of presentation.


[Facets with values displayed as links]

[Facets with values in pull-down menus]

[Facets with values on down-to-child pages]

Main and Secondary Facets

35% of pages with faceted navigation gave emphasis to one facet over one or more secondary facets. This was done by:

  • Giving a more prominent page position and/or greater visual weight to primary facet(s)
  • Displaying the values for primary facet(s) on the page, while presenting only a link to the values of the secondary facets or using a pull-down menu to contain the values for secondary facets.


[Secondary facet, less prominent position/less visual weight]

[Secondary facet, values in pull-down menu]

[Secondary facets, values on down-to-child pages]


Single-Level vs. Multi-Level Facets

67% of sites providing faceted navigation did so at a single point in the browse path. For example, on a top-level page, the user may have the option to browse by brand or category, but no additional faceted navigation options are presented along the browse path.

28% of sites providing faceted navigation at more than one point in the browse path, creating a progressive filtering experience based on multiple criteria.

4% of sites providing faceted navigation presented multiple filtering options on the page in a search-like interface. The user selects one or more values from a pull-down, clicks submit, and the page displays a filtered list of links based on the selected values.


[Progressive filtering along browse path]

[Page filtering interface]


©Heidi P. Adkisson. 2005. All rights reserved.
Related Studies
Study: Facets on the Web
Kathryn La Barre (Ph.D. student, Library Science, Indiana University)