Good Facets Gone Bad

I recently met with a client who said “no one uses facets for searching…”  I expressed surprise at this comment and probed a bit as to why they thought so.  We opened their home page and I soon surmised why.  The facets they had did not seem to be very useful.  No one had tested them and I had not yet spent any time in analysis, but at first glance, they did not provide context for their content.  I recall one facet was “content type” and contained terms like “pdf”, “doc” and “jpg”.  There were also ambiguous terms like “article”, “white paper” and “research”.  I am not necessarily saying these were not useful, but I did not understand the difference between “white paper” and “research”.  (Perhaps a frequent user would).

The point here is that faceted search is incredibly powerful but only if the facets make sense to users and the terms are clear, concise and meaningful.  Terms have to help users locate what they want and not frustrate them in the process. 

In support of that goal, I wanted to point out some examples of bad facets – the facets that don’t help anyone and that sully the good name of faceted search. 

Here is an example from the Verizon Wireless site:  "Wireless" as a facet on the wireless site is not terribly useful

None of these terms are really useful – I have a business, it is a coporation, I work from my residence and yes, my cell phone is wireless. 

Do you have some good examples of bad facets?  I’d love to hear about them.  Send a note to me: and I’ll post them here.