Applying WordPress Filters
Those who run successful eCommerce sites know that a customer is more likely to make a purchase if they can find what they want quickly. When you have a lot of products available, however, navigating your catalog can become tedious and complicated.
Fortunately, filters are handy tools that help users narrow their search results to find what they’re looking for faster. On eCommerce sites, the effective use of filters can lead to an increase in sales, as the likelihood that customers will abandon your site in frustration decreases.
In this article, we’ll explain what search filters are and why they are useful for eCommerce sites in particular. Then we’ll look at some WordPress plugins you can use to improve your customers’ online shopping experience. Let’s get started!
What Are WordPress Filters?
Filters are specific criteria that can be applied to online searches, in order to show or hide results based on whether they match the user’s needs. Google’s Advanced Search tool is a perfect example of how filters can be used to refine search results:
The possibilities for filter criteria are nearly endless. For example, The New York Times enables you to filter article results by date and category, and on Twitter you can narrow your search results to show only tweets from people you know.
What those filters look like also varies. You might check a box, select an option from a menu, or click a button to apply each filter. Some sites even enable users to filter results by selecting their location on a map, or using sliders to set target ranges.
The Other Type of Filter
Somewhat confusingly, the term “WordPress filter” can refer to one of two things—eCommerce filters for searching or a function within a WordPress website’s code. The latter is not a WordPress plugin; instead, these filters are connected to an event in the site’s backend.
In short, WordPress sites pass data back and forth between the database and the user’s browser. That data can be modified before it is displayed or stored when it passes through a filter.
What Are the Differences Between WordPress Filters and Actions?
Filters and actions are short strings of WordPress code that “hook” onto an event, controlling or enhancing a user’s experience. While they’re both examples of a WordPress hook, they fulfill different functions.
A filter hook is used for input and output—data comes in, then goes out. WordPress users can leverage filters to change the behavior of a theme or function. As a simple example, if your default WordPress theme displays a few words of text in the menu bar, you could alter that wording by running the WordPress function through a filter. Essentially, WordPress filters work like real-life water filters, providing a modified version of what was input.
An action hook doesn’t have to return any data (though it can). An action is triggered when a condition is met. For example, if a user enters their email address in a signup field, an action can automatically send them a confirmation email.
To summarize: In WordPress add filter hooks to change things, and add action hooks to make things happen.
What Are the Benefits of Using WordPress Filters?
Inserting filters into your code is advantageous for several reasons:
- They’re straightforward – Filters do involve some basic coding, but compared with other aspects of web development, they’re relatively simple to understand. There are plenty of resources online for beginners.
- They save time – Adding a filter hook to the existing WordPress core files is much quicker than writing or rewriting the WordPress code every time you want to make a change.
- They create possibilities – With hundreds of filters to choose from, you can customize your site any way you want. From functional aspects to creative elements, filters can really elevate a WordPress website.
Now, let’s return to the first type of search filtering.
WordPress Filtering for eCommerce Sites
When it comes to eCommerce, filters are commonly designed to simplify navigation. A standard search will bring up all the results for a given term, sometimes displaying hundreds or even thousands of options. On the other hand, filtering cuts out some items in order to show fewer but more specific results, eliminating the need for excessive scrolling.
For your customers, this feature is a vital convenience. Plus, it can help you increase your sales. The most successful eCommerce sites have clearly-visible search filters in their headers or sidebars. With clear and efficient paths to the products they want, customers are less likely to get frustrated and give up.
For example, Amazon enables customers to quickly narrow the search field by selecting a department, category, and several sub-categories from a drop-down menu. You can then further narrow your results by selecting checkboxes for characteristics such as price ranges, shipping options, ratings, and colors:
While your site probably doesn’t have as many products as Amazon, it’s still wise to put a hierarchy of filters in place. The WordPress filter criteria can be almost anything, and the more specific categories you’re able to provide, the easier it will be for customers to search for the products they need.
That being said, you don’t want to replace having to scroll through pages of products with the need to dig through long lists of multiple filters. Therefore, make sure your filter navigation is easy to read, and doesn’t clutter your sidebar or header with too many options.
Best WordPress Plugins for eCommerce Filtering
While you could set up filters on your WordPress site manually, this would require a lot of time and coding. It’s far simpler to pick up a dedicated plugin API that will do the job for you. Let’s look at four of the best plugins for adding eCommerce filtering to your website.
Plugin 1: WOOF – Products Filter for WooCommerce
If you’re running one of the over four million active installations of WooCommerce, you can easily add search filters to your store with WOOF – Products Filter for WooCommerce.
This plugin enables your customers to search through products using filters for categories, product attributes, and price. You can display these options in sidebar widgets as radio buttons, checkboxes, or drop-down menus.
WOOF offers both a free version and a premium version, with licenses for the latter starting at $34. The premium tier provides you with access to additional display options such as sliders, images, and colors, as well as the ability to gather statistical data about search results.
Plugin 2: FacetWP
If you’re looking for more variety in your filter display choices, FacetWP is another viable option. It includes visually-interesting and useful filters like maps and star ratings, which aren’t available in WOOF.
If you have products in various locations on your site, or if you have have an active customer base that leaves many reviews and ratings, having these filter display options available could be useful. Interactive and dynamic filters may appeal to your customers more than checkboxes and drop-down menus.
FacetWP is a premium plugin, and its license fees start at $99. This is a heftier price tag than many other tools, but may be worth the cost if you’re looking for a feature-rich filter plugin.
Plugin 3: Ecommerce WD with the Ecommerce Filters Add-On
Ecommerce WD is an eCommerce plugin, which has an optional add-on that enables search filtering. With this tool, you’ll be able to add filters to widget areas so customers can search your products by category, manufacturer, price, and other characteristics.
Of course, this tool is only useful if you’re already using Ecommerce WD to create your eCommerce site, or if you’re creating a new site. Anyone already committed to another eCommerce plugin will have to look elsewhere.
Ecommerce WD itself is available for free with limited functionality, or via a license starting at $30. Regardless of whether you choose the free or premium plugin, you’ll need to pay $15 to use the Ecommerce Filters add-on.
Plugin 4: Search & Filter
Finally, Search & Filter is a straightforward plugin that enables your customers to search using filters like categories, tags, custom taxonomies, post type, and date. It integrates well with WooCommerce, and also provides a variety of display options (including checkboxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus, and multi-select formats).
A free version of the plugin API is available, and includes a sizeable range of features. Alternately, you can pick up Search & Filter Pro starting at $20, and get access to advanced filter options.
Filtering to Improve the Digital Experience
Letting your customers filter their search results makes for a faster, simpler buying experience. With the aid of any of the filter plugins we’ve mentioned above, you can help customers find what they need more quickly, and increase your sales.
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