There is one name that stands out in the WordPress ecosystem when it comes to filters. That name is FacetWP. Arguably the longest running leader in the category, FacetWP boasts indexing using a custom table which is said to dramatically speed up a lot of filtering options. Two other plugins are in the mix in terms of popularity, there is the freemium option Search and Filter which has leveraged it’s free version to gain a strong following. Then there is another pro option in JetSmartFilters which comes to us from Crocoblocks and works with it’s JetEngine and other Jet Suite plugins.
Having tried all 3 of these I would say FacetWP is the best option. JetSmartFilters is pretty nice, but one limiting factor is that it’s rendering is setup only for Elementor. Crocoblocks has retrofitted a lot of it’s products for Gutenberg, but their filtering system hasn’t gotten there yet. As far as Search and Filter is concerned, we have never tested their real premium product. The test of the free version was a bit disappointing because it was quite limited in it’s capabilities. Just based on what we’ve heard from other testers of these plugins, FacetWP does still have an edge even though there are a lot of similarities with Search and Filter. Both have a strong range of different field types you can use for example.
ACF Engine Filters
Of course we don’t want ACF Engine to be left out in the cold when it comes to this exciting race. ACF Engine leverages it’s built-in taxonomy registration to power it’s ACFG Filters. These taxonomy filters work as a true facet filter with the user being able to sift through results quickly by apply two or more filters that work together.
Underneath the hood ACFG Filters tap into the new Gutenberg Query Block and leverage WordPress hooks to alter the WP_Query by adding a tax_query argument to it. Oh sorry if you didn’t want the technical explanation on this… ummmm… it’s magic, that’s what it is, MAGIC. It does in all seriously feel a bit like magic to the users at least.
Why Filtering Matters
These days (2022 days) if you just spit a list of stuff onto a page, users tend to yawn and think that’s pretty boring. It’s really important to get some interactivity happening. Scrolling and reading isn’t enough for most visitors to really get hooked into your content and engage with it. Filters help a lot in this area. Filtering (and searching) start to create a form of gamification in the mind of the user. Sure it’s a simple game, but it’s also practice. Finding an interesting house, or just seeing what prices are in a nearby location. Checking out options for vacation activities. Providing facet filtering almost always enhances the user experience. Of course it needs to work well, be easy to find and use, and you want to also avoid making filters too complicated for users.