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Mobile Web Design : Faceted Navigation
This design pattern is part of the Mobile Web Design series.
Helping the user by providing intuitive navigation pattern and search options goes a long way in ensuring a higher usability index for any website. Especially on mobile phones, where the user doesn’t want to enter too many things manually, it makes a lot of sense to possibly give the user more choices to get to their desired information faster. A possibly fast and reliable way of assisting the user in filtering content faster is faceted navigation pattern.
A facet is a distinct feature of a product/element/entity, which makes it unique from the others. For instance if the user decides to buy a pair of Nike shoes, the facets to it could be, the sex of the person who would wear the shoes(male), the price(below 200 $)/color(white)/ category(sneakers)of the shoe, which would make it different from the other shoes that Nike possibly sells.
The intention behind faceted navigation is to allow the user to sieve through multitudes of information till they are able to get to their desired result. The user would be given default first level choices, which wrong bring in another related second level of choices and so on, at each level the amount of choices keep narrowing down depending on the input provided at the earlier level. The final outcome of a faceted navigation is that the user is able to get their desired product/information/content.
When to use
Some places where it makes a lot of sense to use faceted navigation pattern are:-
- The user has to chose from a large variety of options available and they might be confused with the amount of data they have to go through to get to their final goal.
- When the items share the same features and the same item does not belong to more then one category. For instance on a website which allows viewing items by price, if the choices are below 100$ and above 100$, if a product ends up being listed in both categories the faceted navigation would fail.
- Faceted navigation works well for a collection of things like flights/cars/books etc
Some of the key advantages of using this navigation approach are:-
- Allows the user multiple perspectives to the same thing, for instance the user can get to a Beethoven CD, through price/genre narrow down approach or through period of release/price narrow down approach.
- It is generally more intuitive from an end user perspective, for instance if the user chooses bus as a mode of transport, they know that the end result would list that only maybe only with different times/classes etc.
- Allows quick narrow down to the desired result if the facets of the items have been tagged properly and are unique for the item in question.
Some of the key disadvantages of using this navigation approach are:-
- If the user is not sure about the facets of the item they are looking for, this pattern might end up confusing them more than actually helping them.
- If the items have not been tagged properly and end up listed in two categories or sharing 2 metadata information, the faceted navigation would throw confusing results.
- If the size of data to be filtered is huge, the level of facets would be enormous and the possible task of tagging the items uniquely could become a challenge for the developer.
Faceted navigation can be a very user friendly pattern provided the amount of data to be filtered is limited and the tagging has been done uniquely enough. From a usability perspective faceted navigation along with an advanced/basic search option could work very well giving them the flexibility to chose between the two.
--- Added by Mayank on 29/06/2009 ---