Enterprise Search in Practice: A Presentation of Survey Results and Areas for Expert Guidance

Enterprise search in practice presentation has two main focuses. First, to present some interesting and sometimes rather contradicting findings from the Enterprise Search and Findability survey 2012. Second, to introduce an holistic approach to implementing search technology involving five different aspects that are all important to succeed and to reach findability rather than just the ability to search.

Presented at Gilbane Conference 2012 in Boston USA on the 28th of November by Mattias Ellison.

Design Principles for Enterprise Search – The Philosophy of UX

In May I attended An Event Apart in Boston (AEA). AEA is a 2-day (design) conference for people who working with websites and was created by the father of web design Jeffrey Zeldman and the CSS guru Eric Meyer. The conference has a broad perspective, dealing with everything from how to write CSS3 and HTML5 to content strategy and graphic design. This post is about an AEA topic brought up by Whitney Hess: Create design principles and use them to establish a philosophy for the user experience.

Hess wants to create universal principals for user experience to communicate a shared understanding amongst team members and customers and to create a basis for an objective evaluation. The principles suggested by Hess are listed below along with examples of how these can relate to search and search user interfaces.

Stay out of people’s way

When you do know what people want stay out of their way

Google knows what to do when people visit their search at Google.com. They get out of the way and make it easy to get things done. The point is not to disturb users with information they do not need, including everything from modal popup windows or to many settings.

Create a hierarchy that matches people’s needs

Give crucial elements the greatest prominence

This means that the most used information should be easy to find and use. A classic example is that on most university webpages – it is almost impossible to find contact details to faculty members or campus address but very easy to find a statement of the school philosophy. But the former is probably what users mostly will try to find.

university website -  xkcd.com/773/

Limit distractions

This principle means that you should design for consecutive tasks and limit related information to the information you know would help the user with her current task. Don’t include related information in a search user interface just because you can if the information does not add value.

Provide strong information scent

There should be enough information in search results for users to decide if results are relevant. In an e-commerce site this would be the difference between selling and not selling. A search result will not be perceived as cluttered if the correct data is shown.

Provide signposts and cues

Always make it clear how to start a new search, how to apply filters and what kind of actions can be applied to specific search results.

Provide context

Let the user know that there are different kinds of search result. Display thumbnails for pictures and videos or show msn availability in people search.

Use constraints appropriately

Prevent errors before they happen. Query suggestion is a good way as it helps users correct spelling error before they happen. This saves time and frustration for the user.

Make actions reversible

Make it obvious how to removes filters or reset other settings.

Provide feedback

Interaction is a conversation so let the user know when something happens or when the search interface fetches new search results. Never let the user guess what happens.

Make a good first impression

You only have one time to make a first impression. It is therefore important to spend time designing the first impression of any interface. Always aim to make the experience for new users better. This could mean voluntary tutorials or fun and good-looking welcome messages.

So now what?

Are universal principles enough? Probably not. Every project and company is different and need their own principles to identify with. Hess ended her presentation with tips on how to create company principles to complement the universal principles. Maybe there will be future blog posts about creating your own design principles.

So what are your company’s principles?

Search Conferences 2011

During 2011 a large number of search conferences will take place all over the world. Some of them are dedicated to search, whereas others discuss the topic related to specific products, information management, usability etc.

Here are a few that might be of interest for those of you looking to be inspired and broaden your knowledge. Within a few weeks we will compile all the research related conferences – there are quite a few of them out there!
If there is anything you miss, please post a comment.

March
IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2011
Main focus: Social intranets, SharePoint and Enterprise Search
March 1, 2 and 3, 2011, Copenhagen, Denmark

Webcoast
Main focus: A web event that is an unconference, meaning that the attendees themselves create the program by presenting on topics of their own expertise and interest.
March 18-20 , Gothenburg, Sweden

Info360
Main focus: Business productivity, Enterprise Content Management, SharePoint 2010
March 21-24, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, USA

April
International Search Summit Munich
Main focus: International search and social media.
4th April 2011, Hilton Munich Park Hotel, Germany

ECIR 2011: European Conference on Information Retrieval
Main focus: Presentation of new research results in the field of Information Retrieval
April18-21, Dublin, Ireland

May
Enterprise Search Summit Spring 2011
Main focus: Develop, implement and enhance cutting-edge internal search capabilities
May 10-11, New York, USA

International Search Summit: London
Main focus: International search and social media
May 18th, Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London, England

Lucene Revolution
Main focus: The world’s largest conference dedicated to open source search.
May 25-26, San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency, USA

SharePoint Fest – Denver 2011
Main focus: In search track: Enterprise Search, Search & Records Management, & FAST for SharePoint
May 19-20, Colorado Convention Center, USA

June
International Search Summit Seattle
Main focus: International search and social media
June 9th, Bell Harbor Conference Center, Seattle, USA

2011 Semantic Technology Conference
Main focus: Semantic technologies – including Search, Content Management, Business Intelligence
June 5-9, Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, USA

October
SharePoint Conference 2011
Main focus: SharePoint and related technologies
October 3-6, Anaheim, California, USA

November
Enterprise Search Summit Fall Nov 1-3
Main focus: How to implement, manage, and enhance search in your organization
Integrated with the KMWorld Conference, SharePoint Symposium and Taxonomy Bootcamp,

KM-world
(Co-locating with Enterprise Search Summit Fall, Taxonomy Boot Camp and Sharepoint Symposium)
Main focus: Knowledge creation, publishing, sharing, finding, mining, reuse etc
November 1 – 3, Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Washington DC, USA

Gilbane group Boston
Main focus: Within search: semantic, mobile, SharePoint, social search
November 29 – December 1, Boston, USA