Shoe Shopping vs Course Shopping: Examples of Faceted Browsing
This screenshot, taken from the shoe shopping section of 6pm.com, is a good example of faceted browsing. It parses different features of the product (e.g. size and width of shoe) into separate, easy to navigate menus. Users can select many different sizes and many different possible widths of shoes, and the results will reflect various combinations of those selections. This is very customizable, since it doesn’t force the user to choose from preexisting combinations (like 7A, 7B, etc).
The screenshot on the right is from the my.harvard course search screen. It’s a bad example of faceted browsing because it isn’t intuitive for the user. If the user wants to view all classes that meet on Mondays (but not necessarily only Mondays), it’s not enough to just mark the “Mo” option. They also have to select “Mo We”, “Mo We Fr”, etc. The user is forced to choose from an unintuitive predetermined list of options, leading to a gulf of execution issue.
The redesign on the left is my take on a more intuitive form of faceted browsing. The user can select as few or as many of the 5 days of the week as they wish. The website would then display classes that meet on the selected days (but also possibly on other days). Thus, the shown selection (Monday & Wednesday) would also show MWF classes, but not Monday-only classes. If nothing is selected, then the website should show all classes. This is a better example since I believe it would be more intuitive for the user: they wouldn’t have to worry about lots of variations in options, but just click the days that they want a class to meet.