Using Filters Effectively

Filtering is one of the most powerful features in Sellerdeck, and consequently it is one of the most tricky to configure, and most difficult to get working reliably.

Here's a guide to using filtering effectively, and getting the most out of this impressive feature.

[EDIT: 10/10/14 - Some changes made to this article to clarify the SEO implications of filtering]

Filtering FAQs

What is filtering?

Filtering is a feature in Sellerdeck that allows you (or your customers) to dynamically control the products that are displayed on a page online. The traditional method of filling a page in Sellerdeck is to manually add products (or product duplicates) into a section in the content tree and then publish that static page to the internet. On the other hand, filtering allows you to apply a set of filtering instructions to a section that say things like 'only display products that are in brand X' or 'only display products that are marked as being on sale' or 'only display products that are in a certain price band'. The online page then reads at those instructions or 'criteria' and filters through the products in the store to only display the matching products.

So it works a bit like searching then?

Exactly right. Just like the Sellerdeck search allows visitors to search across the store to find products that match a certain search term, by activating filtering you can turn any section in the store into a search results page that only displays products that match the filtering criteria.

In fact, when Sellerdeck displays a list of filtered products online, it will use the same layout as it uses to display the normal search results. Search results and filter results are pretty much the same thing.

What different types of filtering are there?

The 'Pre-Set Filters' method allows the store owner to 'hard-wire' the filters that control the products that appear in the page. This allows the creation of a page which shows (for example) all the products that are marked as being on sale, or all the products from a certain manufacturer. The online customer cannot change the products that are shown.

The 'Customer-Controlled Filters' method adds a set of tools to the sidebar of your pages which will allow the customer to choose their own filtering instructions, rather than just relying on the ones that you set. You can set choose which ranges of values are available for the customer to filter on, but it's up to the customer to select the specific values and filter which products they see.

How does filtering work?

Filtering uses scripts called 'jQuery' and 'Ajax' which are online technologies that work in the web browser to dynamically change what is displayed on the page. The jQuery will read the filtering instructions in that section. It then goes off and looks through the search index files to find products that match the filtering instructions, and uses Ajax to display the right products.

Will filtering affect my SEO?

Yes, it can potentially affect your page names, which is discussed at the end of this article.

 

Pre-Set Filters

The first method I'll talk about is when the store owner uses a filter to dynamically fill a page online full of products that all have the same characteristics e.g. they are all from the same brand, or they are all on sale. There are no filtering tools displayed to the customer. You simply pre-set what products will appear on the page.

The advantage of this system is that you can create sections full of the products you want without having to fiddle around with duplicating products in the content tree. Please note though that any links to these sections will go via the Perl scripts. This works fine if you are adding new sections to your store, but if you are converting an existing page to use a pre-set filter, the page address will change. The SEO implications of this will be discussed later.

Note: If you just want to do pre-set filtering for now, and not worry for now about giving customers filtering tools, then you'll need to go to 'Settings > Search and Filtering Settings' and delete the example 'TypeOfJewellery' filter you see there. Just highlight it and click the 'Delete Filter' button. Then you need to click 'New Filter', call it 'Blank' and click 'OK'.

To set up a pre-set filter for a section, you need to create a new blank section, go the 'Filtering' panel and then tick these boxes:

Then you just need to use this area within the 'Filtering' panel of the section.

The first thing to do is to choose whether you want to filter products that are in this section (or other specific sections) or filter across all the products in the store. If you are doing pre-set filtering, you probably will want this option set to 'All Sections'.

Next, choose the custom properties that you are interested in, and set the custom property value that you want all the products to match. Click 'Apply changes' and publish the page to test it.

In order for this to work well and reliably, you must make sure that you have correctly entered values for all products for all your custom properties. Otherwise you'll have products missing from your new filter pages and not be sure why.

Customer-Controlled Filtering

Customer Controlled Filtering takes the basic principles of filtering – i.e. dynamically changing the content of the page - and adds tools to the sidebar that allow your visitors to enter their own filtering instructions.

To create a set of tools, go to 'Settings > Search and Filtering Settings > Filtering'.

Click 'New Filter' and give it a meaningful name.

You can now use the grid to choose which custom properties you want to use as filtering tools.

Select the custom properties you want to filter on, and enter a label for the filtering tool. You can also choose the 'HTML Representation' (i.e. whether visitors will select with a drop down list or checkboxes etc.) and whether or not the filtering tool is optional.

To add these filtering tools to a section, you just need to go to the 'Filtering' panel of a section and set the 'Use Filter' box to the filter you've just created:

This will add the tools to the sidebar of your section (although it only really looks right online - not in the preview).

If you are adding filtering tools to a section, there is on critical decision you need to make: Do you want to filter across all the products in the store, like with the pre-set filter, or do you want to filter just the products within the current section?

If you do have products in the section at the moment, and you want to add filtering tools to allow customers to filter what products they see, then make sure that you DO NOT select the 'Make Filtering the Default View' box:

That way, the page will initially appear as a standard static page, and the clever dynamic filtering will only kick in once the customers start filtering with the tools in the sidebar.

Designer Settings

In 'Settings > Search and Filtering Options > Options' there are a few options that affect the behaviour of advanced filters:

I would suggest de-selecting 'Make Filtering the Default View of Sections'.

Also, if you are testing the feature, deselect 'Enable Filtering Cache' - otherwise you will need to clear your cache all the time to see how your changes have affected the store.

What layouts are used in filtering?

If you are planning to edit the layout of your pages, be aware that in the 'Section Page Body' layout (which controls what goes where on your section pages) there is one set of layout code used for standard static pages, and a completely separate set of layout code when pages show filtered information.

As mentioned above, the filtered products are displayed using the same layout as is used for the standard search results.

Finally, there is a layout called 'Filtered Product Summary' in your library:

This layout is used with customer-controlled filtering. When you have a set of standard static products in a page, but you also supply a set of filtering tools that allow customers to run a dynamic filter, the 'Filtered Product Summary' is used to display the initial static products when the page is first loaded. It works just like a standard product layout.

SEO and Filtering

If you tick the 'Make Filtering the Default View' checkbox for any section in your store:

this will make the link to the section change to a 'search filter' link e.g.
http://www.yoursite.com/cgi-bin/ss002014.pl?FILTERPAGE=Mens.html

You don't need to worry about this if you are adding new sections to your store. However, if you want to add filtering tools to an existing section, you don't want the page name to change so it is best to make sure that 'Make Filtering the Default View' is unticked. This will mean the page will initially display indentically to how it does at the moment, and the clever filtering will only kick in if the customer wants it to.

Having said that, for 'empty' sections where you are just populating the page with a pre-set filter, you will have to tick this box and so the name of the page will change. To get around this you will need to set up '301' redirects to tell Google about the new page name.

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