The people at Findwise are entering vacation mode one after the other. While finishing up my projects before summer vacation I started thinking about what are the important parts of creating a good search experience. So I wanted to give you a few tips before leaving the office for the summer.
Myself and Caroline participated at Business to Buttons in Malmö in June. I met a lot of talented people and had lots of interesting conversations. One of the topics i ended up discussing the most was: Search is just search, right?
A very common opinion amongst designers is that search is just search. You put a search box in the upper right corner and then you’re done. The search engine has thought of everything else, hasn’t it? I found myself arguing about two things that are very close to my heart:
- Choosing the righ search platform
- Designing a good search experience
Choosing the right platform
There is a difference between search engine platforms. You just don’t go out and by one and think that’s it. “Search is fixed.” It does matter what platform you choose! Depending on your choice you can tune it in different ways to fit your needs. You don’t just install Google or any other platform for that matter, and think your done. If you do, you’re in trouble. As Caroline wrote about in a previous blogpost, most enterprise search projects with problems, have problems that are not related to the platform but to the fact that the organization does not have a strategic way of working with search.
To give you designers and other design interested people a quick start to this subject I recommend listening to a podcast from Adaptive Paths UX week 2007 where Chiara Fox talks about search and interaction design. (You can download the podcast from Itunes store for free.) It will introduce you to some of the basic things to think about when it comes to getting what you want from your search engine.
Designing a good search experience
When designing a good search experience there are lots of things you should think of. But without getting to involved in advanced filters, navigators, query suggestions and other things you first need to fix the basics. Showing relevant information in the search results. One of the most common problems I meet at new customers is search results lists that make it practically impossible for the users to understand what the result is without clicking on it. All search results look the same no matter if they’re documents, web pages, people, applications, or products. The only way for the user to understand what information they can find in the result is by clicking on it. A search application that forces the user to use pogosticking is in no way better than using poor navigation. So first you need to think about what information needs to be displayed about different types of search result. What information is relevant for a document, or for a web page?
To get you started thinking about this I recommend reading the articlefrom UIe about creating good search results. It will introduce you to some of the basics.The article describes web site search. Enterprise search is off course more complex since you have more types of sources but the basic idea is the same: Show the user the information they need.
So that was two recommendations for your reading list this summer (in case there is a rainy day or two).
If you have any question about choosing the right platform or design good search experiences please contact us. More on these topics will also come after the summer.
From the people here at Findwise, have a great vacation everyone!