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Best Practice for Multifaceted Navigation


Whether you are more familiar with the term guided navigation, attribute filtering, multi-attribute navigation or guided search (there are more although these are some of the main industry terms used) this type of advanced navigation can provide visitors to your e-commerce store/online booking system/content rich product site with an invaluable user experience – if implemented correctly.

What is multifaceted navigation?

In short this is an advanced navigation method where shoppers can filter out large sets of products or content by a variety of product attributes (sizes, colours, features, price range, specifications).
An example of multifaceted navigation on

User benefits of multifaceted navigation

  1. they can choose to be specific about the products which they are being shown
  2. your users are empowered by the way you allow them to dynamically manage your product database
  3. users can compare products by specific features, for instance when looking for a TV you can specify to see only TV’s that are 1080p and that are 46 inches
  4. your users can shop how they are used to in a good high street store. ie. they tell the salesperson that they have so much to spend and are looking for particular product features or sizes, and they are then shown the products which suit their requirements
  5. your user can find the products specific to their needs in a more efficient way, speeding up their browsing journey in what may well be a small space of time they have to shop online
  6. your users don’t need to to visit multiple product pages and read each product description to know whether it matches their requirements
  7. long, scrolling product listings pages (pre-product page) are eliminated as they can filter out the products which don’t match their needs
  8. combined with the more widely used sorting techniques (price hi-low, price low-hi, latest, bestsellers, closest to your location ie. for a hotel) faceted browsing providers users with all the tools they need to hone in on the products/items which they are in a position to purchase
  9. potentially confusing and bewildering amounts of products or items can be managed in a way which allows the visitor to focus their shopping experience on just the items which are suitable to them
  10. users will reflect positively on the browsing experience with your website, in turn reflecting less favourably on your competitors who don’t provide this type of advanced navigation

Best practice advice

  • Indicate how many products will be displayed when choosing a specific filter – users not only will get an understanding of your catalogue size but they will see whether by filtering by a particular attribute they will be narrowing their potential options too much to give them enough choice to make a buying decision
  • Provide the ability to choose multiple filters across different attributes – this ensures that users have a truly dynamic and personalised browsing experience rather than only filtering a single attribute ie. colour or size
  • Allow the user to switch filters on an off on the same user interface, rather than having to click back to be shown the different filters available for a particular attribute
  • Encourage users to use this form of navigation with a clear, user friendly interface, rather than this form of advanced navigation being lost in a cluttered navigation menu
  • Where applicable provide slider filters to allow users to specify exactly the upper and lower limits of a particular attribute they want to control, such as the lower and upper limits of their new house budget, rather than limiting them to specific tears of prices ie. £200,000 – £300,000
  • Allow a user to select multiple filters for 1 attribute, allowing them to be even more specific in the features they are looking for within a range of products (whether this be clothes, insurance, holidays or houses)
  • Don’t overlook the overall usability of your web application just to include multifaceted navigation – if implemented poorly these advanced navigation options can confuse and frustrate visitors

Typical web applications that benefit from multifaceted navigation

  • E-commerce stores – selling a large number of products in each category range, allowing users to filter the products to focus in on what suits their budget and requirements
  • Holiday, flight and hotel websites – users can input a variety of requirements (for instance, distance from beach, hotel star ratings, user reviews, near by attractions, distance to town centre) and see hotels which match these specific requirements
  • Estate agent, housing websites – users can specify a variety of criteria (price bracket, number of bedrooms, distance from a local amenity, front or back garden, conservatory) and be presented with only the houses which satisfy the different criteria
  • Price comparison sites – dependant on whether the user is looking for car insurance or their next mortgage, they can specify their unique requirements
  • eCRM systems – where you are looking to filter out customers which match a series of requirements, such as contact method preferred, industry, annual budget and distance from a particular city

Examples of multifaceted navigation

Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifacted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on
Multifaceted navigation on

Examples of where multifaceted navigation would significantly enhance the user experience

Kodak, a site which would benefit from multi-faceted navigation, a site which would benefit from multifaceted navigation
Curry\'s, a site that would benefit from multifaceted navigation, a site which would benefit from multifaceted navigation
Homes4U website which would benefit from multifaceted navigation, a site which would benefit from multifaceted navigation
MyTravel, a site that would benefit from multifaceted navigation, a site which would benefit from multifaceted navigation

Advanced techniques to further enhance the users experience

  • Maintain users key filter selections when they return to the site or begin their browsing process again, such as the price range that suits them or their preferred holiday destinations, for instance
  • Where applicable provide sliders to allow for unique values to be chosen for the likes of price ranges, rather than having specific brackets of prices ie. £50 – £60
  • Use interactive colour pickers as a more engaging way for your users to filter your product range.
  • Consider user generated tagging, allowing your users to tag products/items as they see fit which in turn provides completely new attributes on which to filter content within your site

Further reading on navigation techniques and best practice

What are your experiences of multifaceted navigation?

I would really like to hear about your experiences, both as users, faceted navigation providers and from people on the client side involved in implementing navigation methods.

  • How beneficial do you find this style of navigation?
  • What sites do you feel are pushing the boundaries in navigation?
  • What further user benefits would you add to the list above?
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