Reflections on Search at Intranets 2012 conference

Despite large corporations spending hundreds of millions of euros creating information they spend almost nothing on search, Martin White said at the recent Intranets 2012 conference. But before dealing with this depressing fact, I would like to start on a more positive note.

Being a search professional it was an absolute joy to jump over to the other side of the fence and join the well over hundred intranet professionals at intranets 2012 in gorgeous Sydney. I whole heartedly recommend to search #intranets2012 on twitter to get a feel for the fun, inspiration and knowledge sharing that went on.

With sessions on collaboration, from recognized experts such as Michael Sampson, or by seasoned practitioners such as William Amurgis from American Electric Power, it was clear that social intranets are not only a buzz word but are already providing businesses with great value. Meanwhile James Robertson demanded that we raise the bar for design and usability from providing function to delivering pretty and simple intranets that surprise and delight. Mandy Geddes from Institute of Executive coaching gave me a brilliant idea of how to use private online communities to engage customers.

But in spite of returning from Sydney with a feeling of new energy, eagerness and almost urgency to get back to helping my customers and colleagues, I also realized that search was obviously not on everyone’s mind. Except for Martin White‘s excellent keynote only one session I attended to, Ausgrid Power‘s presentation of their intranet “the grid”, had search as a key area. Hopefully these few glimpses of light sparked something and I honestly think they do, bearing in mind the discussions I had in the breaks and in the fantastic social event Thursday evening.

After writing this to share my thinking, I have two things to say:

Findability ambassadors; our work has only begun and a I hope to see you all at Intranets 2013, because I’m sure going!

Swedish Employees Waste Time and Money Looking for Information

Canon has just published a study showing that half of the Swedish employees waste about 4000 Euros or 6000 USD per employee and year searching for information. The conclusion was drawn after interviewing over 1000 people of which over half used more than 10 hours per month looking for information. A quarter of the subjects in the study said that they spent up to 20 hours. These are very interesting numbers that show how profitable an investment in Findability can be.

Link to the article (only in Swedish)

Why Web Search is Like a Store Clerk

When someone is using the search function on your web site, your web search, it tells you two things. First of all they have a specific need, expressed by their search query. Second, and more importantly he or she wants you to fulfill that need. If users didn’t care where the service was delivered from, they would have gone straight to Google. Hence, the use of your search function signals trust in your capabilities. This means that even if the majority of your website visitors doesn’t use the search function, you know that the ones who do have a commitment to you. Imagine you are working in a store as a clerk; the customer coming up to you and asking you something is probably more interested in doing business with you than the ones just browsing the goods.

This trust however, can easily be turned to frustration and bad will if the web search result is poor and users don’t find what they are looking for. Continuing our analogy with the store, this is much like the experience of looking for a product, wandering around for a few minutes, finally deciding to ask a clerk and getting the answer “If it’s not on the shelf we don’t have it”. I certainly would leave the store and the same applies for a web site. If users fail when browsing and searching, then they will probably leave your site. The consequence is that you might antagonize loyal customers or loose an easy sale. So how do you recognize a bad search function? A good way to start is to look at common search queries and try searching for them yourself. Then start asking a few basic questions such as:

  • Does the sorting of the search results make sense?
  • Is it possible to decide which result is interesting based on the information in the result presentation?
  • Is there any possibility to continue navigating the results if the top hits are not what you are looking for?

Answering these questions yourself will tell you a lot about how your web search is performing. The first step to a good user experience is to know where your challenges are, then you can start making changes to improve the issues you have found in order to make your customers happier. After all, who wants to be the snarky store clerk?

Microsoft Bids for FAST

In a recent press release Microsoft has announced an offer to acquire Fast Search and Transfer, FAST. At Findwise we are of course excited about this, as it clearly shows how the world’s leading software vendor has understood the importance of search to the modern enterprise. We are also convinced that the result will be an excellent merger between technical as well as market knowledge of both parties. Since Findwise has a close partnership with Fast and Microsoft you can be sure that we will continue to deliver cutting edge solutions in the future.

An excerpt from the pressrelease:

“Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq “MSFT”) today announced that it will make an offer to acquire Fast Search & Transfer ASA (OSE: “FAST”), a leading provider of enterprise search solutions, through a cash tender offer for 19.00 Norwegian kroner (NOK) per share…” “… FAST’s board of directors has unanimously recommended that its shareholders accept the offer. In addition, shareholders representing in aggregate 37 percent of the outstanding shares, including FAST’s two largest institutional shareholders, Orkla ASA and Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe, have irrevocably undertaken to accept the offer. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of calendar year 2008.”

Microsoft pressrelease
Article in reuters

Search is Fun

Luckily, search is not all finding critical business information, it also is the ticket to finding new enjoyments. Recently Yahoo has launched a new audio search that lets you search multiple music libraries, including for example iTunes, containing millions of songs. In the search result you can see who provided the song and also listen to a free 30- second clip.

If you are more into video clips, check out the new video search Lumerias. It not only include videos from the large sites like Youtube, but also crawls the entire web for videos. Lumerias also lets you download you favorite clips, which is nice if you want to view them offline or are scared of forgetting where you found them.

Enjoy!