What are faceted filters? Complete guide to setting up advanced faceted search in WordPress

What are faceted filters The Complete Guide to setting up an advanced faceted search solution for your WooCommerce website

Not sure how to set up advanced faceted search on your WordPress site? Not even sure what faceted filters are? Although WordPress comes with a basic search out of the box, it doesn’t pull up the most relevant results. Keep reading to discover how to supercharge your store's search and filtering.

WordPress sites are a unique world of their own. You might publish all sorts of content - posts, products, and so on. However, visitors hardly ever know what to search for. What if they type the wrong thing and don't find what they need?

The solution is to set up smart search options, such as advanced faceted search and filtering. The right search features are more attuned to online shopping and anticipate your customer's needs, helping them to find what they want more easily.

In this complete guide, I’m going to explain what WordPress faceted search is and why it can make such a huge difference to sales in your store. I’ll also share the best WordPress faceted search plugin, both for filtering products or any other type of information.  Finally, you'll learn step-by-step how to set it up.

Faceted search enables users to filter what they’re looking for by different criteria. They can narrow down their selection and quickly find specific items in your online store or website.

Advanced faceted search example

Think of facets as categories or attributes that the information on your WordPress site can be grouped into and filtered by. Here are a few examples:

  • Computer hardware stores that sell products like SSDs might have different facets for platform support, capacity, connection type, and compatible devices.
  • A WordPress blog might have facets to help users to find the type of posts they're looking for.
  • Stores that sell clothes often have facets for color, fabric, occasion, and size.
  • Stores that sell cookware have facets for material, price, and color.
  • A WordPress consultants directory might have faceted filters to help users to find a consults with the skills they require.

This way, customers can quickly make their selection and find exactly what they’re looking for.

Facets vs filters vs search: what’s the difference?

The problem with a regular search bar is that users often don’t know what to search for. This is especially true if this is their first time visiting your website.

In addition to this, search results don’t offer support for typos, errors, or common keyword synonyms. For example, a customer might want to purchase a red t-shirt from your e-commerce store. But, if you’ve named the product Crimson T-shirt, it won’t appear in the search results.

Filtered search is when customers can use a filter dropdown or other types of filter to narrow down their search results. So, following our example, a customer might select T-shirts using the category filter to view all t-shirt products.

Faceted search is similar to filters but they’re different search methods. With faceted search, customers see a logical interface that helps them quickly find what they’re looking for. Following our example from above, customers could set the Type facet to T-shirt and the Color facet to Crimson.

These are the main differences between facets and filters:

  • Narrowing down search results. Regular filters let users narrow down search results one at a time. Faceted filters use multiple filters that can be applied at once. This way, users can quickly find what they’re looking for.
  • Filtering results based on different attributes. With faceted filters, you can create filters based on different product attributes. This is also a great way to use keywords in your faceted search.
  • Improving website structure. With faceted filters, users are more likely to find exactly what they’re looking for rather, even if you have a huge site. For example, if you sell hardware goods like nuts and bolts of different sizes, faceted filters will improve the product catalog structure and make it easy for customers to find the exact product quickly.

To sum it up, faceted filters let users narrow down search results based on the exact information they're looking for. Unlike basic filtering, WordPress advanced faceted search lets users select multiple pieces of data. These drill down the results, only displaying relevant items.

Before we get into which types of WordPress sites need advanced faceted search, let’s quickly step through some important statistics.

Research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group concluded:

Users notice and complain in the rare cases when facets are absent. These days, ecommerce sites without faceted search are the exception, rather than the rule.

Reformation faceted filters

The same study found that 27% of search failures were a result of not being able to find suitable items on stores, even though at least one matching product was available.

The Nielsen Norman Group also reports that in 2000, only 64% of all in-site searches were ultimately successful. In 2011, this increased to 74% and, in 2017, a whopping 92% of all in-site searches were successful.

While the statistics are particularly significant for e-commerce stores, the same principles apply to any type of WordPress site. Basically, if you have lots of data for users to sift through, then you need a WordPress advanced faceted search plugin.

What about faceted filters in WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is the world's biggest e-commerce plugin, but surprisingly few stores use facets for their in-site search. That's because the filters that come with WooCommerce out of the box are pretty basic.

A WooCommerce faceted search plugin is essential for stores that sell dozens, hundreds, or thousands of products. Customers will benefit from being able to select specific product attributes to narrow down their selection.

Crate and Barrel faceted filters

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Clothing stores. Stores that sell apparel can set up facets for type, fabric, size, fit, color, and price.
  • Hardware stores. Stores that sell products like fasteners, nuts and bolts, screws, locks, hinges, power tools, and plumbing supplies can use facets for availability, department, dimensions, and ratings.
  • Furniture stores. Furniture stores might consider creating facets for attributes like color, price, width, height, and type.

As you can see, faceted filters make it easy for customers to narrow down the options and find what they’re looking for. Stores that sell a medium or large number of products can benefit from speeding up the browsing experience.

What is the best WordPress advanced faceted search plugin?

Next, it's time to discover the best plugins for adding advanced facets to WordPress. I recommend a different plugin depending on whether you're adding faceted search to a WooCommerce store or to a general WordPress site:

  • Adding faceted search to a WooCommerce store - Without doubt, WooCommerce Product Filters is the best advanced faceted search plugin for e-commerce stores. It comes with a huge range of facet styles and types, and everything else you need.
  • Adding facets to a general WordPress site - If you're adding facets to any other type of website content (resources, blog posts, members, etc.) then Posts Table Pro is the plugin for you. It takes any type of information from your website and displays in an instant table - complete with advanced faceted search filters, AJAX-powered keyword search, and more.

Best for e-commerce: WooCommerce Product Filters

WooCommerce product filter AJAX plugin

WooCommerce Product Filters is the best advanced faceted search plugin for WooCommerce. As well as having all the faceted filters you could need, it has clever logic built-in to avoid frustration and ensure that customers always see results.

This is achieved by never showing empty filter options. In other words, customers will see faceted filters for available products only. The plugin also provides the option to display the number of products within each option so that customers will naturally stop choosing options when the number of results gets too low.

Now that we’ve chosen an e-commerce faceted search plugin, the next step is to plan the sort of data that you want to help customers search by.

The faceted search plugin gives you the following options:

  • Categories - Essential for stores that sell lots of different types of products. Customers can select the facet for the type of product they’re looking for e.g. Tops, Dresses, Pants, or Shoes.
  • Attributes - Product attributes – like size, weight, dimensions – are important for stores that sell products like hardware goods or furniture.
  • Colors - Stores that sell apparel, furniture, or cookware can help customers quickly find products by color using this facet.
  • Tags - Depending on how you’ve set up product tags, you might want to let customers select tag facets to narrow down their search.
  • Custom taxonomy - You can use the custom taxonomy facet if you’ve created custom taxonomies to better organize your products. For example, if you sell products by different brands, you can make it easy for customers to find the exact product they’re looking for.
  • Price - A price facet is beneficial for almost every type of e-commerce store. It lets customers set the price range and filter out less expensive (or more expensive) items.
  • Ratings - Setting up a ratings faceted filter on your store makes it easy for customers to find high-quality products. It’s also a good way to use social proof on your online store.
  • In stock - This is perfect for stores that sell out quickly. For example, hardware stores and furniture stores often have some products in stock while others are on backorder or temporarily out of stock. This faceted filter lets customers only view the products that are in stock.
  • On sale - Customers can select this facet to only view products that are on sale.

What the faceted filters look like in your store

Once you've installed the plugin, it only takes a few minutes to add advanced faceted search filters to your store. The end result will be something like this on desktop:

WooCommerce faceted search filters

And either this or this on mobile, depending on how you set it up for mobile users:

Either way, it's the perfect way to add advanced faceted search to an e-commerce store!

How to add WordPress faceted filters to your store

Here’s what you need to do to set up advanced faceted filters search:

Step #1: Install Product Filters

Get the Product Filters plugin if you haven’t done so already. Install and activate it on your WordPress site.

Step #2: Configure the faceted filters

The setup wizard will open next. Enter your license key and choose how you want your faceted filters to behave. Here's some more information about the main settings.

Filter behavior and content
WooCommerce AJAX filter plugin

You can set the Filter mode option to either Instant or Button click. By default, it’s set to instantly update the list of products using AJAX as soon as the customer selects an item from any of the filters. Use this if you want AJAX faceted filters in your store.

The Product Filters plugin also gives you the option to display the total product count next to each option. You can set this using the Product count option.

Filter visibility

Use this option to show selected filter groups on the shop page, category pages, and product tag archives. Optionally, you can disable this option if you want to add filters to pages manually or display them in a sidebar.

The plugin lets you hide all faceted filters by default. If you enable this option, customers won’t see the filters when the page first loads. They’ll need to click a button to view the faceted filters and refine their search. This is perfect for hiding filters on mobile devices.

Finally, you can change the Show filters button text and display faceted filters in a slide-out panel instead of directly on the page.

Toggle filters
WooCommerce toggle product filters open closed
Facets with the filters toggled to closed

This option lets you add a an open/close arrow to the right of each filter heading. Customers can click it to open/close faceted filters. If you have a small number of filters, you should leave this option set to Open. However, if you have tons of filters on the page, you should set it to Closed to save space on the page.

Step #3: Create faceted filters

WooCommerce Product Filters lets you create all sorts of faceted filters for your online store. Depending on the types of products you sell, you can use any combination of the available filters to enhance the search and browsing experience of your store.

Think about the best way to present each filter on your product catalog pages. You can use dropdowns, radio buttons, color swatches, images, or checkboxes. The aim is to make things as easy as possible for customers so that they intuitively select the options they want and perform an advanced faceted search without having to think.

WooCommerce product filter styles types

Next, go to Products → Filters in the WordPress admin. You'll see a default filter group containing some popular facets. Either edit this, or great your own.

Whichever you do, fill in the details to add a new filter. You can set the name, filter by, filter type, and assign to group options. Repeat this step to create as many facets as you’d like.

Best advanced faceted search plugin for other types of website content: Posts Table Pro

So far, we've discovered the best faceted search plugin for e-commerce. But what if you want to add faceted search for other types of information on your website, instead of products? That's when you need Posts Table Pro.

Posts Table Pro is a dynamic WordPress table plugin which creates instant tables of any type of information from your website. This might be your normal WordPress pages and posts, or any custom post type (consultants, members, articles, resources, audio files, videos, etc.).

The table makes it super-simple for your users to find the information they're looking for. For example, it has:

  • Advanced faceted search filter dropdowns, which appear above the table. Users can select information from multiple dropdowns to drill down their search and combine multiple facets.
  • AJAX-powered search box to the top right of the table. With this, users can enter a keyword and search for absolutely anything.
  • Easy column sorting so that users can re-order the list by any column.

Types of faceted search available in Posts Table Pro

The faceted filter dropdowns which are built into Posts Table Pro look like this (depending on your theme):

Posts Table plugin
Posts Table Pro comes with faceted filter dropdowns, plus a keyword search

And if you want other types of facet, such as filter widgets and checkboxes, then you can use Posts Table Pro with the FacetWP plugin. This adds filter widgets alongside the table, like this:

WordPress table plugin filter widgets

Tutorial: How to set up advanced faceted search with Posts Table Pro

It's easy to install Posts Table Pro and start adding facets:

  1. Install Posts Table Pro.
  2. The setup wizard will open. Follow the steps to choose how you want your tables to look and behave.
  3. On the filtering page, follow the instructions to add filter dropdowns to the table.

Alternatively, if you want to use Posts Table Pro with the FacetWP plugin, then you can read the documentation on how to use the two plugins together. Either way, you'll be adding advanced faceted search to your WordPress site in no time!

Where to get the plugins

Implementing seamless in-site search becomes significantly easier with faceted filters. It's super-quick for users to find what they're looking for based on the information they're interested in. This saves them time, making them more likely to convert - whether you want them to buy your products, subscribe to your blog, or something else.

Which is the best WordPress advanced faceted search plugin depends on the sort of information you want to filter by:

  • Use WooCommerce Product Filters to add faceted search to your online store and give customers plenty of options to narrow down their search.
  • Or use Posts Table Pro to add advanced facets for any other information on your WordPress site.

Ready to set up an advanced faceted search solution? Get the plugin today!

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