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Faceted vs. Parametric search

From an interview with Peter Morville:

Peter Morville: The terms “faceted navigation” and “parametric search” are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of comparison I find it valuable to define interfaces that require the simultaneous, up-front specification of all search parameters as exemplars of parametric search. Like the Boolean queries of yore, this forces users to formulate and execute a search strategy without guidance or feedback. Sliders and pull-downs are easier than ANDs and ORs, but syntax is only part of the problem.

In contrast, faceted navigation lets users begin naturally with a keyword or two. They’re rewarded with traditional results plus a list of facets (or fields) and values, usually on the left. This SERP (search engine results page) serves as a custom map that offers insights into the content and its organization. And, this is a map that’s also the territory. Users can take a simple next step to clarify or refine their query by clicking on a facet value. And, by taking several of these simple next steps, users can construct a sophisticated, powerful query. So, not only do users find what they need, but they also learn along the way.

Design Patterns: Faceted Navigation

Very nice article by on faceted navigation by Peter Morville and Jeffrey Callenderi. I really like the part where they differentiate faceted browse from parametric search.

“On the other hand, the distinction between faceted navigation and parametric search is relevant. In parametric search applications, users specify their search parameters up front using a variety of controls such as checkboxes, pull-downs, and sliders to construct what effectively is an advanced Boolean query. Unfortunately, it’s hard for users to set several parameters at once, especially since many combinations will produce zero results.”

Search User Interfaces - Marti Hearst’s book available online free of charge

Marti Hearst’s new book is now available for reading online - “To make this book available to as many readers as possible, the author, with permission of Cambridge University Press, has placed the full text online free of charge.”

This is a fantastic resource. Thanks Marti. Thanks CUP.

If you want a quick reference of Marti’s book - watch her giving this presentation of her book to Google

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