How to almost get facet counts in the Django admin

For a tantalizing moment today I thought I'd found a recipe for adding facet counts to the Django admin.

I love faceted browsing. I've implemented it at least a dozen times in my career, using everything from Solr and Elasticsearch to PostgreSQL (see Implementing faceted search with Django and PostgreSQL) or SQLite (see Datasette Facets).

The Django admin almost has facets out of the box, thanks to the list_filter interface. But they're missing the all-imprtant count values! Those are the thing that makes faceted search so valuable to me. Today I decided to try and add them.

Almost facet counts

Here's my first attempt. This assumes a model has a State foreign key, and adds faceting by state:

class StateCountFilter(admin.SimpleListFilter):
    title = 'State count'
    parameter_name = 'state_count'

    def lookups(self, request, model_admin):
        qs = model_admin.get_queryset(request)
        states_and_counts = qs.values_list(
            "state__abbreviation", "state__name"
        ).annotate(n = Count('state__abbreviation'))
        for abbreviation, name, count in states_and_counts:
            yield abbreviation, '{}: {:,}'.format(name, count)

    def queryset(self, request, queryset):
        state = self.value()
        if state:
            return queryset.filter(

# Then add this to the ModelAdmin:

class LocationAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_filter = (

I tried this out, and for a glorious moment I thought I had solved it! I added it to another column too, and started trying it out.


Then I attempted to apply one of the filters:


This is broken. The whole point of facet counts is that they show you counts for your existing selection - so you can filter down to the state of Oregon and see how many locations of type Pharmacy you have in that state.

But that wasn't happening here, because I was calculating the counts using model_admin.get_queryset(request) - which returns the unfiltered root queryset.

Trying to get filtered counts

The challenge here is to get access to the currently filtered selection from within that lookups() method.

Here's the closest I got:

    def lookups(self, request, model_admin):
        changelist = model_admin.get_changelist_instance(request)
        qs = changelist.get_queryset(request)
        states_and_counts = qs.values_list(
            "state__abbreviation", "state__name"
        ).annotate(n = Count('state__abbreviation'))

I tried this out... and hit a RecursionError! It turns out that .get_changelist_instance() method itself calls the .lookups() method, presumably because it needs those lookups in order to construct the current filtered selection (or to validate the request arguments perhaps).

I added traceback.print_stack(limit=10) to my lookups() method to confirm that I was right about this - here's the traceback:

  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/", line 233, in inner
    return view(request, *args, **kwargs)
  File "../site-packages/django/utils/", line 43, in _wrapper
    return bound_method(*args, **kwargs)
  File "../site-packages/django/utils/", line 130, in _wrapped_view
    response = view_func(request, *args, **kwargs)
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/", line 1693, in changelist_view
    cl = self.get_changelist_instance(request)
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/", line 735, in get_changelist_instance
    return ChangeList(
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/views/", line 99, in __init__
    self.queryset = self.get_queryset(request)
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/views/", line 450, in get_queryset
    ) = self.get_filters(request)
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/views/", line 137, in get_filters
    spec = list_filter(request, lookup_params, self.model, self.model_admin)
  File "../site-packages/django/contrib/admin/", line 79, in __init__
    self.lookup_choices = list(lookup_choices)
  File "core/", line 104, in lookups

I tried searching around to see if anyone else had solved this problem, but the best I could find was this StackOverflow comment which hit the same recursion blocker that I found.

So as far as I can tell it isn't currently possible to implement facet counts correctly in a Django SimpleListFilter.lookups() method.

Possible alternative: do it in JavaScript

I really want facet counts. One workaround I'm considering is to do it in JavaScript: load the standard admin page, then have some custom JavaScript that hits a custom API endpoint with the current set of querystring parameters, fetches back filter and facet counts and injects them into the correct place on the page.

I really wish Django could handle this for me natively though!

Created 2021-03-11T14:50:25-08:00 · Edit