Backward highlighting: Enhancing faceted search

Wilson, M., André, P., & schraefel, m. c. (2008). Backward highlighting: Enhancing faceted search. In S. Cousins & M. Beaudouin-Lafon (Eds.), Proceedings of the twenty-first annual ACM international symposium on user interface software and technology (UIST) (pp. 235–238). New York, NY: ACM Press


There are two kinds of faceted browsers: non-directional search and directional column-faceted search. In non-directional search, a user makes a selection in one facet and all facets are filtered to show only the items that are relevant to the item selected. This process would remove all the information from the screen that is unrelated to the combined selection. In directional column-faceted search, there is a specific order of facets (columns) and the filtering typically flows from left to right (Figure 1).

Figure 1

However, if a user makes his first selection in a middle column-facet, and the browser only filters columns to the right, then there will be no associated information indicated in all the columns to the left of the selected item.

To solve this problem, the author introduces a method called “Backward Highlighting”, which means, when selecting an item in a middle column-facet, its relevant items in left facets would be highlighted( Figure 2).

Figure 2

Backward Highlighting could give more information to users. And according to an experiment, the author found users prefer directional column-faceted search with Backward Highlighting function.

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