Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Guided search

Wednesday 8 October 2008

 

Search has become -thanks to Google- the default way of finding information. At the same time search is difficult to implement and technology is immature. Web content search interfaces differentiate between searching structured and unstructured content. In this post more information on searching structured content.

Structured content is content that is classified based on metadata, such as tags, taxonomies and properties of the content. The most intuitive way to search structured content is to filter the result set based on a selection of meta information. This is called guided or facetted search.

The classic example of structured content is information about a product you can buy. For example each digital camera has more or less the same properties. Websites build to find and compare digital cameras allow you to view them side by side. Structured content also opens the way to navigation based on the properties, often called guided navigation, facetted search or browsing. Find me all cameras that 7 megapixels could be such a query.

Some data is structured by default, other can be classified automatically based on textual analysis. This is mostly relevant for text documents. Advanced techniques exist to find out the language of a document and extract some of the topics it covers. This allows you to relate content, often used in news sites as a set of related content links. Yet another category is structure that is created by user behavior. Amazon has many examples of such links, users that bought X also bought Y.

Guided search is mostly relevant for:

 

 

These days it is crucial to combine guided search with textual search. Users that know a particular model number type this in a search box, users that only have a vague idea what they want (price, vendor) will use guided navigation.

Many websites employ an in-house build system for guided search. I have build and worked on several homegrown systems myself. There are also some vendors offering solutions for guided search of structured content. The most well known are:

 

 

Some great resources on search are: Searchtools, CMS Watch and Enterprisesearchblog.

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Jaiku now part of Google

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Google has acquired Jaiku. Jaiku is a social website allowing you to share small messages and keep track of what is going on. There are two things that attracted me in using Jaiku for the last few months. One jaiku’s ability to concentrate multiple feeds including Flickr, Blogs, del.ico.us and others. Second its friendly, inviting and almost human tone of voice while interacting with the service.

What I completely fail to understand is the suggestion in the announcement that Google needs to improve the service before new users are allowed in. Jaiku will generate a lot of traffic these days, the service is more than fine as it is, so why not capitalize on this extra traffic.

The jaiku announcement reads:

In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

The most relevant way I can see Jaiku improve is by having more users sign up.

Information junkies

Thursday 8 February 2007

When I started out as a programmer (yes I have done substantial programming myself;-), the internet was there to send mail, read news, browse company folders and obtain manual pages. That was it. If you needed information on an anything you were working on you would RTFM, pick up a thick book and read.

Today is different: Google has transformed the way we obtain information. For example: if you have an error code just ask Google and it confirm that you are not the first to have the same error. Hopefully also not the first to find the solution.

simpsongoogle.jpg

The introduction of Google into our society was gradual yet so fundamental, that I cannot imagine what life was like before Google was there. I simply would have a hard time doing my work. Similar to what would happen if electricity would go away. Cosy and nice for a night but very very disruptive when sustained for long periods.

Size matters

Wednesday 31 January 2007

A little quiz. Which internet company has:

  • the best visited homepage?
  • the smallest homepage?

Right that is Google. I do not think it is a coincidence that both statements go together. Google is the internet king at delivering what their customers want most. Ah but now you say google has it easy since they only deliver one product: search. Not true, google has many services and products: search, mail, rss reader, google devices (the mini), picasa, youtube and so on. For example have you ever seen a press release from Google on their website about the acquisition of YouTube. No it is no where near the homepage of google because the majority of the visitors of Google couldn’t care less.

The internet is about delivering what your visitors are expecting from you. That is what builds a brand on the internet. To accomplish this experience for your visitors define the top things that visitors are coming to your site for. You will find you need only 3 to 5 to cover at least 90% of the visits to your site. Make these pages as easy as possible to find and execute for your visitors. You should spend 90% of your energy in these pages. What is left can be spend on less important stuff. The long tail works on the internet for books and CD’s but not for websites in general: less functionality and clutter means more succes.

A lot of internet projects I have seen trip over the vast amount of functionality and content that must be put online. These internet sites are usually a good reflection of the internals of the company that is building the website: complex. Your visitors are not interested in your company internals and all the beautifull things your company have to offer: they want to get their thing done, whatever that is, and they want to do it quickly.