The difference between filters and facets in search
Filters are great for limiting the amount of data displayed in your search results. For example, if you’re searching for a specific brand name, it might make sense to filter out results that don’t include that brand. You could do this by adding “brand:” into your search string. This will return results containing the term “brand:” and the brand name itself.
Facets are similar to filters, but they work differently. Instead of narrowing down the results based on one keyword, they narrow down the results based on multiple keywords.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for a particular car model. If you type “car” into your search bar, you’ll probably get a variety of models listed. But what if you wanted to find just cars with four doors? You’d use the facet “door count.” This will return results containing the word “four” AND the word “doors”
You can add as many facets as you want to your search results. Keep in mind that there’s a limit to how much data you can display per page.
You might think of facets as similar to categories—but there’s one big difference. Categories are used to organize items into groups. For example, you could categorize your products by color or size. But facets are much more powerful because they allow you to filter down your search results based on specific criteria.
Let’s say you wanted to see all the movies starring Tom Hanks. You could enter his name in the search box and select the Movie category. Or you could enter his name in a faceted search and choose the Movies category. Either way, you’d end up seeing every movie he starred in.
But now imagine you had a few friends who liked the same kinds of movies as you do. If you entered their names in the search box, you’d probably miss out on some of the best movies they’ve ever seen. So rather than searching for everyone individually, you could combine their names into a single facet.
For example, let’s say you know three people named John Smith. One of them likes action movies, another loves comedies, and the third person just wants to watch something funny. If you combined their names into a single facet called Action Comedies, you’d be able to quickly narrow down your search results to show only those movies that fit your friend’s preferences.
So why don’t we apply this idea to our search engines? We already have a feature that lets us combine keywords into a single search term. Why not take it a step further and make it possible to combine multiple facets into a single search query? That would give users even more control over their searches.