I'd like to suggest doing a search on insight.com to see another example of filtered results.
I don't mean for this to be a selfish plug by any means (as a matter of fact, I welcome any critiques...), but we've developed a navigated or filtered search similar to what you describe. The idea behind it is the user can continue to narrow/filter and always get a result. We use links instead of dropdowns.
One thing I think would be great in the type of filtered interface on c|net or insight would be the ability to *exclude* a filter.
Here's an example: You are searching for a notebook and you know you don't want a 12.1 screen size. You could exclude that filter and see the remaining notebooks (screens 13 on up), rather than have to select a filter like 15.1 (showing just the 15.1 screen notebooks). I feel this is a limitation to what insight and other filtered searches currently offer.
As to your second question about conventions, I say you've got to innovate and test the waters. Do a/b testing, roll out a beta (i.e. froogle), invite customers to preview the tool to test/tweak your interface. Conventions are good and there is something to them, that's why they work, but imho, conventions should be organic. Just remember your audience and what they are trying to accomplish. Who knows, you may stumble upon the next 'convention.' :-)
I'm currently working on a project that requires
sorting and comparison of multiple parameters
associated to each product served up in a search
results page and I would love to get some opinions
from this community.
In my particular industry, the standard display for
this type of information is to display all of the
results in a sortable table, giving the user ability
to sort each column. IMO, the table seems a little
unwieldy and the results can be better accomplished
through a different interface that is closer to
ecommerce site patterns in place today.
I found one variation at c|net, where the Shopper.com
interface utilizes a filter function on the left hand
paired with a sort by box at the top. I'm currently
working on creating a wireframe around this idea, but
I'm wondering if other people have come across this
problem and have different design patterns they use.
I also have to ask, where is the line between
conventions of an ecommerce site like Amazon or
Shopper.com that is much more established and the
standard seemingly adopted by the entire industry for
a sortable table. Am I shooting myself in the foot by
not going with the flow here?