Enterprise Search and Findability Survey

A few days ago we launched the “Enterprise Search and Findability Survey“. The survey closes at the end of March.

If you complete the survey you will get the report when it  is finished.

Take me to the Survey!

The survey is for people who are responsible for search in their organisations. If you are a search manager, intranet manager, product owner of search, search editor, in-house developer for search, this survey is for you!

The survey aims to help you by finding out your views about Enterprise Search and Findability. The research will help show what business value an Enterprise Search solution can provide.

The survey is structured into five sections, each of which provides a specific perspective on Findability:
• Business
• Organisation
• User
• Information
• Search Technology

More information about the perspectives is provided in each section.

The survey will take approximately 20-30 minutes of your time. If you need a break, you can continue answering the survey at the same question where you left. If you give us your contact information we will send you the finished report based on this survey when it is finished, we are aiming to have it finished by the month of June.

The survey results will be presented at Enterprise Search Europe 2012 (London, 30-31 May 2012) and Enterprise Search Summit (New York, 15-16 May 2012).

Findability, a holistic approach to implementing search technology

We are proud to present the first video on our new Vimeo channel. Enjoy!

Findability Dimensions

Successful search project does not only involve technology and having the most skilled developers, it is not enough. To utilise the full potential and receive return on search technology investments there are five main dimensions (or perspectives) that all need to be in focus when developing search solutions, and that require additional competencies to be involved.

This holistic approach to implementing search technology we call Findability by Findwise.

Search Driven Navigation and Content

In the beginning of October I attended Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim, USA. There were a lot of interesting and useful topics that were discussed. One really interesting session was Content Targeting with the FAST Search Web Part by Martin Harwar.

Martin Harwar talked about how search can be used to show content on a web page. The most common search-driven content is of course the traditional search. But there are a lot more content that can be retrieved by search. One of them is to have search-driven navigation and content. The search-driven navigation means that instead of having static links on a page we can render them depending on the query the user typed in. If a user is for example on a health care site and had recently done a search on “ear infection” the page can show links to ear specialist departments. When the user will do another search and returns to the same page the links will be different.

In the same way we can render content on the page. Imagine a webpage of a tools business that on its start page has two lists of products, most popular and newest tools. To make these lists more adapted for a user we only want show products that are of interest for the user. Instead of only showing the most popular and newest tools the lists can also be filtered on the last query a user has typed. Assume a user searches on “saw” and then returns to the page with the product lists. The lists will now show the most popular saws and the newest saws. This can also be used when a user finds the companies webpage by searching for “saw” on for instance Google.

This shows that search can be used in many ways to personalize a webpage and thereby increase Findability.

Inspiration from the Enterprise Search Europe 2011 conference

A couple of weeks ago, me and some of my colleagues attended the Enterprise Search Europe conference in London. We’re very grateful to the organizer Martin White at IntranetFocus for arranging the event, and having us as one of the gold sponsors.

For me it was the first time in years I attended a conference like this, and while it was “same old, same old” for many of the attendees, for me it was enlightening to meet up with the industry and have a discussion on where we are as an industry.

There were mainly software vendors and professional services/consultants there, as well a few customers or actual users of enterprise search… and I think the consensus of the two days were that we in the industry STILL haven’t really figured out what we should do with the enterprise search concept, and how to make it valuable for our customers. We at Findwise are not alone with this challenge, but rather it is an industry challenge. There are some vendors who seem to be doing some good work of delivering real value to customers, and also there are a few colleagues to us in the industry that do good professional services/consultant work. At first it was a bit of a downer to realize that we haven’t progressed more during the 10 years I’ve been in the business, but at the same time it was very inspirational to see that we at Findwise together with a few other players, seem to be on the right track with our hard work, and that we have the position to solve some of the real industry challenges we’re facing.

As I see it, if we gather our forces and make a focused “push forward” together now, we will be able to take the industry to a new maturity level where we better solve real business challenges with enterprise search (or search-driven Findability solutions, as we like to call them).

My simple analysis of all the discussions at the conference is that we need to do two things:

  1. Manage the whole “full picture” of enterprise search – from strategy to organizational governance, involving necessary competencies to cover all aspects of a successful Findability solution.
  2. Break down the customer challenge into manageable chunks, and solve actual business problems, not just solving the traditional “finding stuff when needed” challenge.

I think we are on the right track, and it’s going to be a very interesting journey from here on!

Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011: Contributor vs. Consumer

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2011, Anaheim USA. This turned out to be an intense four-day conference covering just about any SharePoint 2010 topic you can imagine – from the geekiest developer session to business tracks with lessons learned.

To me, one of the most memorable sessions where Social Search with Dan Benson and Paul Summers, in which they showed us how social behaviours can be used to influence the current rank of search. For instance, users interests entered in MySite can be used to boost (xrank) search results accordingly. This was an eye opener as it illustrated what’s possible with quite easy means. Thanks for that!

Another great session was Scott Jamison talking about Findability in SharePoint. The key ingredient in this session was to differentiate between contributor and consumer. Typically we focus on the contributor, building 100 level folder structures with names that make sense to contributor. However, we seem to forget about the consumers, who of course are the other key aspect of an intranet. It is equally important to create a good support system for contributors, as it is to focus on consumer needs. As Jamison said “why have folders for both contributors and consumers? ”. SharePoint includes endless possibilities when it comes to creating logical views built on search, tags and filtering aimed to fill the needs of the consumers.

So, keep the folders or what ever support the contributor needs, but let your imagination float free for delivering best class Findability to the consumer!

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?

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)

Findability on an E-commerce Site

Findability on any e-commerce site is a beast all on its own. What if visitors’ searches return no results? Will they continue to search or did you lose your chance at a sale?

While product findability is a key factor of success in e-commerce, it is predominantly enabled by simple search alone. And while simple search usually doesn’t fulfill complex needs among users, website developers and owners still regard advanced search as just another boring to-do item during development. Owners won’t go so far as to leave it out, because every e-commerce website has some kind of advanced search functionality, but they probably do not believe it brings in much revenue.

Research shows:

  • 50% of online buyers go straight to the search function
  • 34% of visitors leave the site if they can’t find an (available) product
  • Buyers are more likely than Browsers to use search (91%)

What can’t be found, can’t be bought:

  • Search is often mission critical in e-commerce
  • Users don’t know how to spell
  • Users often don’t even know how to describe it

First of all, Findability can accelerate the sales process. And faster sales can increase conversions, because you will not be losing customers who give up trying to find products. Furthermore, fast, precise and successful searches increase your customers’ trust.

On both e-commerce and shopping comparison sites, users can find products in two different ways: searching and browsing. Searching obviously means using the site search whilst browsing involves drilling down through the categories provided by the website. The most common location for a site search on e-commerce sites is at the top of the page, and generally on the right side. Many e-commerce sites have a site search, user login, and shopping cart info all located in the same general area. Keeping the site search in a location that is pretty common will help it to be easier to find for some of your visitors who are accustomed to this trend.

Faceted search should be the de facto standard for an e-commerce website. When a user performs a simple search first, but then on the results page, he or she can narrow the search through a drill-down link (for a single choice) or a check box selection (for multiple non-overlapping choices). The structure of the search results page must also be crystal clear. The results must be ranked in a logical order (i.e. for the user, not for you) by relevance. Users should be able to scan and comprehend the results easily. Queries should be easy to refine and resubmit, and the search results page should show the query itself.

Spell-check is also crucial. Many products have names that are hard to remember or type correctly. Users might think to correct their misspelling when they find poor results, but they will be annoyed at having to do that… or worse, they might think that the website either doesn’t work properly or does not have their product.

Query completion can decrease the problems caused by mistyping or not knowing the proper terminology. Queries usually start with words; so unambiguous character inputting is crucial.

Search analytics, contextual advertisement and behavioral targeting is more than just finding a page or a product. When people search they tell you something about their interests, time, location and what is in demand right now, they say something about search quality by the way they navigate and click in result pages and finally what they do after they found what they were looking for.

A good e-commerce solution uses search technology to:

  • Dynamically tailor a site to suit the visitors’ interests
  • Help the user to find and explore
  • Relate information and promote up- and cross sales
  • Improve visitor satisfaction
  • Increase stickiness
  • Increase sales of related products or accessories
  • Inspire visitors to explore new products/areas
  • Provide-increased understanding of visitor needs/preferences

–> Convert visitors into returning customers!

The Difference Between Search and Findability

Enterprise Search and Findability What is Different?

Is “Findability” only a buzzword to describe the same thing as before when talking about search solutions, or does it bring something new to the discussion? I’d like to think the latter and this week I read a blog post describing the difference between search and findability in a very good way. I couldn’t have written it better myself.

For the lazy one, I’ve picked a quote that is the key element in the post:

Findability: introducing the robot waiter

Imagine you’re in a futuristic restaurant and when the robot waiter approaches, you ask for ‘ham and cheese omelette’. In response he just shrugs his robotic shoulders and says ‘not found – please try again.’ You then have to keep guessing until you find a match for something you’d like to order.

Now imagine a second futuristic restaurant where the robot waiter says ‘Mr Grimes, how lovely to see you, the last time you visited you had A and B and gave them a 5 star rating. People who ordered x, also ordered y and found that the wines a, b and c went really well with it.’At first restaurant the menu was searchable (though regrettably the ‘ham and cheese omelette’ query didn’t match anything), at the second restaurant the menu was findable.

To me, this analogy is spot-on. I dare to say that making content searchable is more of a technical issue while reaching great findability requires understanding of the business. Why is that?

Well, making a content repository searchable you “only” need to hook up a connector, index the repository and display a search box to the users. To succeed with this, it doesn’t matter if the content is movie reviews, user manuals, recipes, a product catalog or whatever. What you need to know is the format of the repository (is it a SQL database, file system, ECM, etc.).

But if you want your users to find what they want in your repositories, business knowledge is a requirement. It’s true that you help your users find information by implementing technical stuff like query completion, facets, did-you-mean, synonym dictionaries, etc. But if they are to be of any help you need to present facets that are useful, populate the synonym dictionary with terms used in your organisation,etc. For example, a good synonym file targeted towards nurses and doctors would be very different compared to one targeted at employees at an insurance company.