How to Design Content Filters for Better User Browsing

by on 10/24/11 at 9:51 pm

Where does one start when they visit a website and want to find content that interests them? They could start from the beginning and browse through all the content until they find something they like. But that can take a lot of time if what they’re looking for isn’t on the home page. To give users more flexibility and speed in browsing, you can use content filters.

A content filter classifies content and displays them in unique ways. They allow users to view content through multiple dimensions, not just one, giving them a richer browsing experience. The hardest part in designing a content filter is figuring out what all those dimensions are.

Believe it or not, there are only five dimensions to classifying content. This is known as the LATCH principle. LATCH is an acronym that stands for location, alphabet, time, category and hierarchy. No other site uses LATCH for content filtering better than iTunes Movie Trailers.

Location

Location is a dimension you can use if you have content that comes from several different sources. iTunes Movie Trailers gives users the ability to browse movies by the different movie studios they come from. If a fan of Disney wants to see a list of all the Disney movies, they can easily do that using the ‘Studios’ filter. They don’t have to sift through all the other movies to find the Disney movies they want. Users wouldn’t have the power to do this if the site didn’t offer a content filter by location.

How to Design Content Filters for Better User BrowsingAlphabet

Classifying content by alphabet is another dimension that most sites can use. However, sometimes classifying content by alphabet doesn’t give users enough information. In the case of movies, users don’t care whether a movie has a title that’s higher or lower in the alphabet. That information isn’t good enough for them to decide on what movie to watch. For this reason, iTunes Movie Trailers doesn’t offer an alphabetical filter, but instead displays their movies alphabetically in their ‘Genres’ filter to make them easier to scan.

How to Design Content Filters for Better User BrowsingTime

Time is a popular dimension to use for content filters because time is a dimension that all content shares. Users who visit a site regularly want to see new and fresh content. That’s why it’s imperative that sites allow users to filter content by time. iTunes Movie Trailers sets their ‘Just Added’ filter as the default one that users first see when they visit the site.

How to Design Content Filters for Better User BrowsingCategory

Category is another popular dimension for filtering content. Organizing content in categories is important because it not only makes browsing easier, but it gives users a better understanding of the content itself. With movies, the obvious categorization is genres. Classifying movies by genre gives users a high-level impression of what they can expect out of a movie emotionally.

How to Design Content Filters for Better User BrowsingHierarchy

The hierarchy dimension is one that offers a lot of possibilities. It’s best to use when you want to distinguish content by rank or degree. This is beneficial for users because with so much content on a site it’s hard for them to figure out what deserves more of their time. With movies, you can easily filter content by what’s popular. iTunes Movie Trailers takes hierarchical filtering a step further by also showing movies that are exclusive.

How to Design Content Filters for Better User Browsing

Using LATCH you can design content filters that meet your users’ browsing needs. Instead of forcing users to browse through content in one dimension, use content filters to give them multiple dimensions for a faster and richer browsing experience.


How to Design Content Filters for Better User Browsing How to Design Content Filters for Better User Browsing

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

One Response to “How to Design Content Filters for Better User Browsing”

  1. Harm van Vugt

    Oct 25th, 2011

    Don’t assume users see your homepage first and reverse engineer your LATCH. Users enter a single page somewhere in the site (from google, facebook, weblog etc) and see if they find what they are looking for. Even Amazon puts its Hierarchy behind a tiny drop down.

    Users more and more visit sites like hit-and-run, LATCH only works for a few sites, don’t you think?

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