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Guiding principles for ordering of facet values in faceted search UI

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  • Lee Romero
    Hi all - I m wondering if anyone can provide any opinions or references to guiding principles or best practices or perhaps even research on how to order the
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 27, 2010
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      Hi all - I'm wondering if anyone can provide any opinions or
      references to guiding principles or best practices or perhaps even
      research on how to order the values displayed for facets in a faceted
      search UI?

      The most likely orderings would seem to be alphabetical by value or
      ordering by the # of results assigned to a particular facet value.
      Are there any other orderings you've seen?

      Have you seen any situations where it could make sense to have facets
      in the same search UI using different orderings? Or would you think
      that all facets in the same UI would be ordered by the same value?

      Thanks for any insights you might have.

      Regards
      Lee Romero
    • Walter Underwood
      The order most effective for the user. --wunder
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 27, 2010
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        The order most effective for the user. --wunder

        On Apr 27, 2010, at 4:59 AM, Lee Romero wrote:

         

        Hi all - I'm wondering if anyone can provide any opinions or
        references to guiding principles or best practices or perhaps even
        research on how to order the values displayed for facets in a faceted
        search UI?

        The most likely orderings would seem to be alphabetical by value or
        ordering by the # of results assigned to a particular facet value.
        Are there any other orderings you've seen?

        Have you seen any situations where it could make sense to have facets
        in the same search UI using different orderings? Or would you think
        that all facets in the same UI would be ordered by the same value?

        Thanks for any insights you might have.

        Regards
        Lee Romero



      • smaislin17
        My colleague and taxonomy celebrity :-) Stephanie Lemieux wrote an article for KM World that touched on this. Her article, at
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 27, 2010
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          My colleague and taxonomy celebrity :-) Stephanie Lemieux wrote an article for KM World that touched on this. Her article, at http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/Feature/Designing-for-faceted-search-52781.aspx, includes this paragraph:

          "DO order facets and values based on importance. That might sound obvious, but a lot of sites get it wrong. Not all facets are created equal: Some access points are more important than others depending on what users are doing and where they are in the site. Give them top billing because only the first few will be visible on page load. Same goes for values: Most faceted search engines will allow you to order values based on number of items in that category. This is almost always a better bet than alphabetical ordering, because it dynamically presents the most popular items at the top. When determining order for navigation, again think about your users and why they are coming to your site: Don't obscure the big-play items in an alpha scheme."


          My preference, which has been validated in practice, has been to AVOID alphabetical ordering in almost ALL situations. I find alphabetical order to be hugely overrated, useful only in the very specific circumstance when either (a) the list of items is extremely long (12+) and doesn't lend itself to some other, natural objective ordering (like chronological); or (b) the letters of the items' names are of critical importance to their meanings, such as proper names and alpha SKUs. In all other circumstances, there are better and more meaningful sorting schemes. After all, alphabetizing a list of terms is a randomizing process... unless you want to argue that A comes before B for some valuable semantic reason? :-) And then there's the interesting question, "alphabetizing by what?" Names can be sorted by last name and first name, titles can be sorted without leading articles (e.g., The), and complex nomenclature might be better served by ignoring initial characters entirely, such as ".rtf" under R and N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone under A.

          Thankfully, categorical values, such as those within a taxonomy facet, aren't that complex and lend themselves nicely to sorting by usefulness, as long as you don't have way too many. The real question, then, is how you want to define "usefulness." Popularity is one way: the categories that most users want are the most *used*, and so the most *use*ful. Sorting by profitability is another scheme that can work in promotional contexts (put the most valuable thing first), though you have to be careful not to alienate your users by obfuscating the things they really want. For other systems you might want to organize your results dynamically based on the user's geographic location or some other identity-based characteristics, though I don't know of an out-of-the-box CMS system that does this.

          As Stephen Wright quipped, "Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?"

          - Seth

          Seth Maislin
          Taxonomy Consultant
          _____________________________
          EARLEY & ASSOCIATES, Inc.
          Phone: 781-775-0684
          Email: sethm@...
          Web: www.earley.com




          Lee Romero <pekadad@...> wrote:
          > Hi all - I'm wondering if anyone can provide any opinions or references to guiding principles or best practices or perhaps even research on how to order the values displayed for facets in a faceted search UI?
        • Lee Romero
          Thanks, Walter and Seth. Walter - I agree that ultimately the answer for an implementation needs to be guided by what the users needs are. But that dodges
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 28, 2010
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            Thanks, Walter and Seth.

            Walter - I agree that ultimately the answer for an implementation
            needs to be guided by what the users' needs are. But that dodges the
            question about whether there are any standards / guidelines / best
            practices (whatever you want to call them) that can help guide that
            kind of discussion.

            Seth - Thanks for reminding me of Stephanie's article. I've read that
            article (a couple times) but had forgotten the connection to my
            question. Duh! Your additional insights are also useful and much
            appreciated.

            Thanks again
            Lee

            On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:54 AM, smaislin17 <sethm@...> wrote:
            > My colleague and taxonomy celebrity :-) Stephanie Lemieux wrote an article for KM World that touched on this. Her article, at http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/Feature/Designing-for-faceted-search-52781.aspx, includes this paragraph:
            >
            <snip>
            >
            >
            > My preference, which has been validated in practice, has been to AVOID alphabetical ordering in almost ALL situations.
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