Faceted search is a technique that involves augmenting traditional search techniques with a faceted navigation system, allowing users to narrow down search results by applying multiple filters based on faceted classification of the items. A faceted classification system classifies each information element along multiple explicit dimensions, called facets, enabling the classifications to be accessed and ordered in multiple ways rather than in a single, pre-determined, taxonomic order.
Facets correspond to properties of the information elements. They are often derived by analysis of the text of an item using entity extraction techniques or from pre-existing fields in a database such as author, descriptor, language, and format. Thus, existing web-pages, product descriptions or online collections of articles can be augmented with navigational facets.
Within the academic community, faceted search has attracted interest primarily among library and information science researchers, and to some extent among computer science researchers specializing in information retrieval.
Faceted search has become a popular technique in commercial search applications, particularly for online retailers and libraries. An increasing number of enterprise search vendors provide software for implementing faceted search applications.
Online retail catalogs pioneered the earliest applications of faceted search, reflecting both the faceted nature of product data (most products have a type, brand, price, etc.) and the ready availability of the data in retailers' existing information-systems. In the early 2000s retailers started using faceted search. A 2014 benchmark of 50 of the largest US based online retailers reveals that despite the benefits of faceted search, only 40% of the sites have implemented it. Examples include the filtering options that appear in the left column on amazon.com or Google Shopping after a keyword search has been performed.
In 1933, the noted librarian Ranganathan proposed a faceted classification system for library materials, known as colon classification. In the pre-computer era, he did not succeed in replacing the pre-coordinated Dewey Decimal Classification system.
Modern online library catalogs, also known as online public access catalogs (OPAC), have increasingly adopted faceted search interfaces. Noted examples include the North Carolina State University library catalog (part of the Triangle Research Libraries Network) and the OCLC Open WorldCat system. The CiteSeerX project at the Pennsylvania State University allows faceted search for academic documents and continues to expand into other facets such as table search.