How to go beyond technical features to choose the right product? Mix faceted navigation with folksonomies


 

When it comes to choosing the right product for your needs (let’s say a digital camera) among all the models available on the market, CSEs or retailers always use some sort of faceted navigation to let you drill down on their product database. And very often the facets proposed by those sites are limited to technical features (i.e: how many megapixels? 5x, 8x, 10x optical zoom?…) and price / stores that sell this product. But some companies try to innovate by enhancing faceted navigation with data coming from folksonomies, like WisdomTap or Buzzillions. 

WisdomTap

As CrunchBase explains:

WisdomTap crawls the best social media sources, such as discussion forums, review sites, and blogs, to generate impartial product reviews, ratings and recommendations. It uses patent-pending technology to identify expert contributors in these forums, and extract their deep insights on products. Consumers are provided content that cuts through the clutter of a multitude of online product reviews and recommendations and helps them research products that are best suited for their specific needs.

Through crawling and analysis of product reviews, WisdomTap is able to propose a list of “intended uses” for each family of products (currently Digital Cameras and Mobile Phones only). You can then combine classic options (choose by brand, choose by price) with filters such as “Beginner“, “Professionnal“, “Outdoor“, “Bright Light“, “Wildlife“… 

WisdomTap - Camera search

WisdomTap - Camera search

So far, even if it looks promising, WisdomTap lacks coverage (how would such a system work on fridges?) and a proper product database (I need tech specs at some point to refine my search).

Buzzillions

Buzzillions is also a review aggregator, much older and more established than WisdomTap. In 2007, , it started adding a similar concept as “intended uses”. As Peter Morville explains on his blog:

Pete Bell of Endeca turned me onto the fascinating, faceted, folksonomic innovations going on at Buzzillions.

Buzzillions

Here’s what Pete had to say:

One of our customers just launched a beta of the most interesting integration of folksonomies and faceted navigation that I’ve seen so far. It balances the rigidity of facets built from a controlled vocabulary with the potential anarchy of raw folksonomies.Users can iteratively refine their search using any combination of controlled vocabulary terms and user contributed tags.

In 2007, those “intended uses” and the faceted navigation on technical features were displayed in different zones; tagclouds were used to illustrate folksonomies . In 2009, the user interface is leaner, both “intended uses” and technical features being displayed together as filters on the left-hand side column ; above results, a simple box highlights the type of users (for digital cameras: “casual photographer“, “photo enthousiast“, “semi-pro photographer“, “pro photographer“) for the category of products.

Buzzillions lacks the search approach used by WisdomTap, which reduces the flexibility to search into folksonomies ; however, the integration with faceted navigation on technical features is really nicely designed.

Dishwasher category at Buzzillions (Jan'09)

Conclusion

Easy :) Mix the power of searching folksonomies from WisdomTap and the nice integration with “classic” faceted navigation from Buzzillions… Also, add the enhanced product selection offered by YouTellMe (deep product definition ; define the most important criteria for you to buy), hire a very good interaction designer, and you can get the ultimate product selection tool :)