Here are two nice UI elements that I have recently discovered on the Zappos and Amazon websites.
It’s common to see multiple-image browsing on product pages, but it’s pretty rare on search result pages. And it always comes with more UI weight (icon to open the browsing widget, or prev/next icons to browse icons…). Zappos has implemented a very nice solution that adds no extra UI weight: when rolling over the image from left to right, the image changes, and you can discover up to 6 photos per product directly on the search result page! Sure, at first glance, this is not easy to understand: it took me a few seconds to understand how to move the mouse over (top to bottom? squared zones?…); but once you’ve got it, it’s a pleasure to use!
In the CSE world, we often oppose hard goods and soft goods. It’s usually easy to build a product database for hard goods (electronics goods, domestic appliances, cars…), and then let users browse products, click on “compare prices” and land on product pages. But for soft goods (fashion, health & beauty, flower…), the number of references makes it a daunting task and so CSEs usually let users browse offers rather than products. In short, hard goods = easy to structure; soft goods = the mess to organize.
When it comes to facets, most CSEs and retailer sites implement feature-oriented facets and rarely usage-oriented facets… Using the analogy “hard goods / soft goods”, I’m tempted to use the terms “hard facets” for feature-oriented facets and “soft facets” for usage-oriented facets. Does it make sense?
Anyway, Amazon is experimenting with soft facets on its “Women’s denim” category in the US. When landing on the homepage of the category, you can choose “Modern chic”, “Timeless style”, “Everyday casual”, “Fresh & forward” styles. Basically those values act as shortcuts in the navigation (1 option in the soft facets = multiple options in the hard facets selected), and they give a kind of “buying guides embedded into faceted navigation” behavior that I really like.