Recently, Office Depot redesigned their search user interface, adding attribute-based filtering and creating a more dynamic, interactive user experience. Unfortunately, Office Depot’s interaction design misses some key points, making their new search user interface less usable and, therefore, less effective. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Office Depot site presents us with an excellent case study for demonstrating some of the important best practices for designing filters for faceted search results, as follows:
Decide on your filter value-selection paradigm—either drill-down or parallel selection.
Provide an obvious and consistent way to undo filter selection.
Always make all filters easily available.
At every step in the search workflow, display only filter values that correspond to the available items, or inventory.
Provide filter values that encompass all items, or the complete inventory.
By following the attribute-based filtering design best practices this article describes, you can ensure your customers can take care of business without having to spend time struggling with your search user interface. Read More
What is the difference between filtering and sorting for a search query? Any SQL developer would be happy to tell you that a sort translates to a SQL ORDER BY statement, while a SQL WHERE clause performs a filter. However, for most users of consumer-facing ecommerce applications, the difference between a sort and a filter presents a mystery they understand dimly, if at all. The distinction between sorting and filtering blurs, because of a phenomenon I’ve called filtering by sorting, which leads to all sorts of interesting search user interface implications. Read More
Faceted search has been around for a long time and has become the de facto standard for search on most ecommerce sites. However, filters with numeric values remain among the most confusing, because many sites have not been able to design usable numeric filters that people can use in an intuitive manner. Recently, powerful user interface controls called sliders have become all the rage for specifying numeric attributes in finding user interfaces. Unfortunately, in their rush to implement this latest, greatest feature, many companies have not designed easy-to-use sliders. Rather than solving usability problems, poorly designed sliders create even more issues around numeric filter usability. In my experience, the following three usability issues surface most often with numeric filters:
representing discrete values for aspects as sets of ranges
inadvertently emphasizing overly constrained filter states
being parsimonious with inventory information
In this column, I’ll examine each of these issues and present the best practices that solve these problems. Read More