Posts filed under ‘search interface’

“…most users reach for search, but they don’t know how to use it”

Jakob Nielsen strikes a combative note about most users’ search skills.

Most users are unable to solve even halfway complicated problems with search. Better to redirect their efforts into more supportive user interfaces when possible.

via Converting Search into Navigation.

23 March 2013 at 20:52 Leave a comment

Designing Search: As-You-Type Suggestions

Designing search: nice summary of autocomplete -> autosuggest -> instant results by Tony Russell-Rdse. uxmag.com/articles/desig…

Summary here:

Although most of us are familiar with Google’s iconic “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, few of us use it; we know that search problems of any complexity require an iterative approach, comprising the creation and reformulation of queries. As-you-type suggestions have become invaluable in this experience. Auto-complete is better suited for known-item search and simple information retrieval tasks. Auto-suggest works well for exploratory search and complex information seeking tasks. And instant results provide a direct channel from queries to answers.

Use auto-complete to:

  • Facilitate accurate and efficient data entry
  • Select from a finite list of names or symbols

Use auto-suggest to:

  • Facilitate novel query reformulations
  • Select from an open-ended list of terms or phrases
  • Encourage exploratory search (with a degree of complexity and mental effort that is appropriate to the task). Where appropriate, complement search suggestions with recent searches

Use instant results to:

  • Promote specific items or products

17 May 2012 at 21:58 Leave a comment

BBC search

Just reread Matthew McDonnell’s blogs about BBC search:

Definitely some sound lessons  here, I think:
  • Serve scoped results from the domain user is in first
  • Get away from just a list to categories of results
  • Easy access to results from other/all domains
  • Ensure related content is never hidden
Would be interesting to see click-through data for different parts of the SERP though.

26 October 2011 at 14:05 Leave a comment

Eye tracking search results pages

Peter Myers describes using Mirametrix’s Eye Tracker system to check the hot spots (most viewed bits of) Google results pages for five formats – two varieties of local results, video searches, product images and expanded search links.

Three take-aways:

  • Mirametrix’s portable system seems to offer a flexible, reasonably affordable solution that could allow organisations to do their own eye-tracking.
  • As Peter says, “As Google moves away from 10 plain listings for more and more searches, it is definitely having an impact on search users.” For SEO practitioners, it is important to be aware of all the opportunities to appear in results  –  images, video, news; and to be aware of your competitors.  “Ranking #1 might not be pulling the weight it used to if your competitors down the page have more visually interesting results.”
  • The tests suggest that the in-page Local/Places results can have a big effect, even when located in the middle of the page. “In these limited cases, they seemed to pull attention away from the top organic spots. If your query has a local flavor, you need to be aware of how your Google Places page is competing.”

8 October 2011 at 19:49 Leave a comment

Search Directgov via IE8 and actually IE7 and Firefox

If you download Internet Explorer v8 you can use the new ‘accelerator’ feature to select some text on any web page, then right-click to access a ‘search Directgov’ link which fires that word directly into the Directgov search engine as a search query. (other search engine options available).

And Simon Dickson has thoughtfully added a search plugin for Directgov, which will allow you to search Directgov directly from the browser interface.

“Visit this page on the MozDev website to find Puffbox’s brand new Directgov search plugin. Click on the word Directgov, and it’ll ask you if you want to install – say yes. If you then consult the list of search engines available from your browser’s built-in search box, you should now see a Directgov option. Enter a word, and it’ll take you straight to a search query Directgov results for that word.”

27 March 2009 at 11:06 1 comment

Google Search-based Keyword Tool

Google has introduced a new Search-based Keyword Tool which generates keyword and landing page ideas that, it claims, are  “highly relevant and specific to your website. In doing so, the tool helps you identify additional advertising opportunities that aren’t currently being used in your AdWords ad campaigns.”

So it provides a useful competitive analysis tool, letting you see which keywords Google thinks are relevant to a site or site section. Of course, it’s also suggesting potential keywords to bid on as Adwords and if you sign in with an Adwords account then the list is fuller and more customised.

I had a play and found quite sound suggestions for public sector sites, as the Lambeth.gov.uk example shows:

Google search-based keyword tool - Lambeth

19 November 2008 at 22:38 Leave a comment

RSS feeds for search results

I did a web search for ‘RSS feeds for search results’ and found a Live Search blog entry dating from 1995 that talks about the alpha feature of providing RSS feeds from search results: just add ‘&format=rss’ to the URL of the results and copy the full URL into your RSS Reader.

This still works on the main Live search site and is made easier by just clicking on the orange RSS icon in the URL. Here’s the ‘RSSed’ URL for Flooding information from the UK government: http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=flooding+site%3agov.uk&format=rss

Live Search results in RSS

Very nifty, but interestingly, Live don’t seem to draw users’ attention to it or even provide information in Help.

Yahoo! offers the similar features to Live, with different syntax, but the RSS icon.

In contrast, Google only offers RSS feeds (RSS and Atom) for its news results but does publicise it clearly. Similarly, the BBC offers RSS of its news and sports results.

Other web search engines such as Ask, Exalead and Clusty do not appear to offer RSS at all.

29 February 2008 at 20:55 Leave a comment

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