[iai-members] from merchandise categories to attributes/facets

17 Oct 2006 - 1:48pm
945 reads
Jay Morgan


Thanks, Austin. I respect your perspective and appreciate the questions. I
wanted to check the basics here to make sure I'm not missing anything.

M.O. for Attributes:
This is for retail ecommerce. The modus operandi are two: internal teams
can post products faster; and, customers select items more naturally by
attribute rather than by internal categories.
I'm new to the company, so i have specific requests out for the research
this project is based on. In my prior experience with retail ecommerce, I
am accustomed to the general user request to shop by and select by
attributes, rather than by internal categories. My goal is to conduct a
competitive analysis (users, rather than experts) on a few sites that employ
I'm trying to learn how and why the taxonomy team supports this. We will
still maintain the internal hierarchies, and use the attribute hierarchies
in conjunction. No one has presented a visualization or diagram of how
those co-exist or what they look like. I have a few ideas, but I want to
get functional before I show them something that could be seen as black

Faceted Nav approaches:
I want to make sure that I don't just assume faceted navigation models
encompass all possible solutions to our problems. I also want to review
good (and bad) examples with users. We have to use valid attributes, but we
can't just call any division in a set a facet. Attribute validity seems
relative to its level in the user's path. I would return to user research
at this point to check our model for faceted nav with users to make early-
and mid-stage adjustments.
We soon reach a challenge of describing what the attribute hierarchies are,
since they will vary by product type. This is a very attractive challenge,
and daunting. I would like to show how the attribute hierarchies are
engaged by the product hierarchy as the user experiences the site.

Pitfalls and clear facets:
I agree that we have to have intuitive, valid facets. I feel this challenge
in the project meetings now. I can tell that most people at the table are
bluffing - they don't know what navigation by attributes means, and they're
not about to ask or reveal their ignorance. My passion is easing the
communication so they are comfortable asking questions and contributing. We
have to have that for this project to work.
Fortunately, our taxo team has really good attributes, and they've been
doing their homework for a few years. Now, we get to build those into a
UI. It's a good challenge to have.

Asking for things - user research:
Awesome requests. I'm hacking away at mental & task models, which the
functional diagrams will be based on. I am requesting the background
research, and have the same approach in mind for competitive analyses. I
think it's especially keen that you include a set of companies (comparative,
I'd say, rather than competitive) who use faceted nav.

An idle mind...:
Yeah, thanks. Mac and cheese has it's place in every office building.
Actually, I might set them off to collect samples from sites that use
faceted navigation. For instance, I think Endeca has trademarked the term
"guided navigation", so it'd be good to check their clients. I want to
include some home-brewed examples, too. Please send examples if you know of
They're starting on use cases today, too. I want to make sure they're not
just basing the use cases on themselves.

Thank you so much. I'm glad you responded. This is the kind of check I was
counting on. Keep it coming.
- Jay

On 10/16/06, Austin Govella <austin.govella at gmail.com> wrote:

Jay A. Morgan
jayamorgan at gmail

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