What Is Faceting?

Faceting is a way to provide users with feedback about the number of documents which match terms they may be interested in. At it’s simplest, it gives document counts based on words in the corpus, date ranges, numeric ranges or even advanced queries.

Faceting is particularly useful when trying to provide users with drill-down capabilities. The general workflow in this regard is:

  1. You can choose what you want to facet on.
  2. The search engine will return the counts it sees for that match.
  3. You display those counts to the user and provide them with a link.
  4. When the user chooses a link, you narrow the search query to only include those conditions and display the rests, potentially with further facets.


Faceting can be difficult, especially in providing the user with the right number of options and/or the right areas to be able to drill into. This is unique to every situation and demands following what real users need.

You may want to consider logging queries and looking at popular terms to help you narrow down how you can help your users.

Haystack provides functionality so that all of the above steps are possible. From the ground up, let’s build a faceted search setup. This assumes that you have been to work through the Getting Started with Haystack and have a working Haystack installation. The same setup from the Getting Started with Haystack applies here.

1. Determine Facets And SearchQuerySet

Determining what you want to facet on isn’t always easy. For our purposes, we’ll facet on the author field.

In order to facet effectively, the search engine should store both a standard representation of your data as well as exact version to facet on. This is generally accomplished by duplicating the field and storing it via two different types. Duplication is suggested so that those fields are still searchable in the standard ways.

To inform Haystack of this, you simply pass along a faceted=True parameter on the field(s) you wish to facet on. So to modify our existing example:

class NoteIndex(SearchIndex):
    text = CharField(document=True, use_template=True)
    author = CharField(model_attr='user', faceted=True)
    pub_date = DateTimeField(model_attr='pub_date')

Haystack quietly handles all of the backend details for you, creating a similar field to the type you specified with _exact appended. Our example would now have both a author and author_exact field, though this is largely an implementation detail.

To pull faceting information out of the index, we’ll use the SearchQuerySet.facet method to setup the facet and the SearchQuerySet.facet_counts method to retrieve back the counts seen.

Experimenting in a shell (./manage.py shell) is a good way to get a feel for what various facets might look like:

>>> from haystack.query import SearchQuerySet
>>> sqs = SearchQuerySet().facet('author')
>>> sqs.facet_counts()
    'dates': {},
    'fields': {
        'author': [
            ('john', 4),
            ('daniel', 2),
            ('sally', 1),
            ('terry', 1),
    'queries': {}


Note that, despite the duplication of fields, you should provide the regular name of the field when faceting. Haystack will intelligently handle the underlying details and mapping.

As you can see, we get back a dictionary which provides access to the three types of facets available: fields, dates and queries. Since we only faceted on the author field (which actually facets on the author_exact field managed by Haystack), only the fields key has any data associated with it. In this case, we have a corpus of eight documents with four unique authors.


Facets are chainable, like most SearchQuerySet methods. However, unlike most SearchQuerySet methods, they are NOT affected by filter or similar methods. The only method that has any effect on facets is the narrow method (which is how you provide drill-down).

Now that we have the facet we want, it’s time to implement it.

2. Switch to the FacetedSearchView and FacetedSearchForm

There are three things that we’ll need to do to expose facets to our frontend. The first is construct the SearchQuerySet we want to use. We should have that from the previous step. The second is to switch to the FacetedSearchView. This view is useful because it prepares the facet counts and provides them in the context as facets.

Optionally, the third step is to switch to the FacetedSearchForm. As it currently stands, this is only useful if you want to provide drill-down, though it may provide more functionality in the future. We’ll do it for the sake of having it in place but know that it’s not required.

In your URLconf, you’ll need to switch to the FacetedSearchView. Your URLconf should resemble:

from django.conf.urls.defaults import *
from haystack.forms import FacetedSearchForm
from haystack.query import SearchQuerySet
from haystack.views import FacetedSearchView

sqs = SearchQuerySet().facet('author')

urlpatterns = patterns('haystack.views',
    url(r'^$', FacetedSearchView(form_class=FacetedSearchForm, searchqueryset=sqs), name='haystack_search'),

The FacetedSearchView will now instantiate the FacetedSearchForm and use the SearchQuerySet we provided. Now, a facets variable will be present in the context. This is added in an overridden extra_context method.

3. Display The Facets In The Template

Templating facets involves simply adding an extra bit of processing to display the facets (and optionally to link to provide drill-down). An example template might look like this:

<form method="get" action=".">
            {{ form.as_table }}
                <td><input type="submit" value="Search"></td>

{% if query %}
    <!-- Begin faceting. -->
    <h2>By Author</h2>

            {% if facets.fields.author %}
                {# Provide only the top 5 authors #}
                {% for author in facets.fields.author|slice:":5" %}
                    <dd><a href="{{ request.get_full_path }}&amp;selected_facets=author_exact:{{ author.0|urlencode }}">{{ author.0 }}</a> ({{ author.1 }})</dd>
                {% endfor %}
            {% else %}
                <p>No author facets.</p>
            {% endif %}
    <!-- End faceting -->

    <!-- Display results... -->
    {% for result in results %}
        <div class="search_result">
            <h3><a href="{{ result.object.get_absolute_url }}">{{ result.object.title }}</a></h3>

            <p>{{ result.object.body|truncatewords:80 }}</p>
    {% empty %}
        <p>Sorry, no results found.</p>
    {% endfor %}
{% endif %}

Displaying the facets is a matter of looping through the facets you want and providing the UI to suit. The author.0 is the facet text from the backend and the author.1 is the facet count.