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Oakland, CA

American history around the time of the Revolution, figuring out how to marry top-down task-based information architecture processes with bottom-up document-based ones, finding a good dentist in San Francisco Oakland
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Tools for Faceted Search and Browse. Posted on 03/25/2002.

Endeca is the first commercial search tool I've seen that essentially places all of its utility on the awesome power of facets. Viewing the demo (which uses the concept of wine!), it looks like they thought through a lot of issues with faceted hierarchical browsing. To see it in use, head to Tower Records, and click into music, classical, or video/dvd--the navigation on the left is driven by it.

A couple of thoughts. It's great to see solutions to exposing facets--apart from Travis', I didn't know of any technologies that I could recommend to folks interested in such a system on their site (I'm guessing Flamenco is not yet ready for licensing.)

The Tower Records implementation lags behind Flamenco in some very important ways. First off, it doesn't tell you how many items are within a facet until you've clicked on it. Such information is key for orienting people to the space that they're navigating. Second, the items on the Tower Records site are endpoints--there's no obvious way to browse back up. In Flamenco, the item's attributes are linked so you can continue your wander without having to "start over"--this is key for keeping people in the headspace of continuing the browse, as opposed to having thought they'd reached a dead end, somehow failing, and need to begin again.

Lastly, the Tower Records experience suggests that, maybe, not everything warrants a multi-faceted browse, particularly "media" categories. Sure, I want to find a digital camera that has at least "3 megapixels", is "SLR", and costs "less than $600", but do I really want to find an "ambient" "CD maxi-single" that is "under $15"? Probably not--people shop media categories by taste, not by attributes.

3 comments so far. Add a comment.

Previous entry: "A new personal record."
Next entry: "Music Recommendations That Work."


RE>First off, it doesn't tell you how many items are within a facet until you've clicked on it.

Right, and that's compounded by the use of a taxonomy of values within one facet. Example: I want to see all records by Anne-Sophie Mutter...

Browse by Performer
Browse by M
Browse by MU
Browse by MUT
Select a performer's name

If I had known, I would have just used the free text search! Flamenco is better because it doesn't shy away from showing you lots of links corresponding with one facet, but we're too often afraid to show all those links in the interface. Too bad.
Posted by Victor @ 03/25/2002 09:32 AM PST [link to this comment]

If you find a 3 Megapixel, digital SLR for under $600, please let me know.
Posted by Thomas Locke Hobbs @ 03/25/2002 05:58 PM PST [link to this comment]

I was very interested to see the post on tools for faceted search and browse. I am a member of a research group at the University of Bristol in England that has been working in this area for some time. We share your enthusiasm for faceted classification! We have developed software for automated classification and for browsing of the resulting categories. The approach we take is to present a browsable tree of classification categories using an "Explorer" like interface. We show the number of documents referenced by each category, and update the displayed categories and number of documents in each category to reflect each selection made by the user. We have a demonstration at - the "used cars" application is probably the best to try in the first instance. But please read the notes on the use of "Back" and "Refresh" buttons before using! We would welcome any comments on the approach.
Posted by Chris McMahon @ 03/30/2002 12:15 PM PST [link to this comment]

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