Posts Tagged ‘Search’

LinkedIn new search platform

Wednesday 3 December 2008

icon-linkedinThe success of the networking site LinkedIn is by a large degree a result of its great interaction design. The network effect does the rest to leverage their investment in interaction design. Interaction design requires many trade-offs and choices. Good interaction design is not something that happens by sitting at your desk. You need to constantly monitor what works for users and what does not and change your interaction experience accordingly.

The LinkedIn web interface has gone through many iterations. The most recent upgrade are the search capabilities. Rather than explaining them here have a look at the Announcing LinkedIn’s New Search Platform post on the official LinkedIn blog. It shows how LinkedIn analyzed user behavior and modified the experience to deliver an even better experience to its end users.

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Searching text

Wednesday 29 October 2008
Search is becoming the ubiquotous way of fnding information. Thanks to google people are now customized to typing a few keywords in a single search field. And they want relevant answers. Providing those answers is not as easy as it seems at a first look.
 
Searching text is difficult because you need computers to do something which is hard to do for humans: understanding written text. In order to provide relevant answers you need linguistic analysis far beyond simple keywords. If a text contains the word Amsterdam it makes a huge difference if the text is actually about Amsterdam or if Amsterdam happens to be the location of one of the office of a company that is described. Good search software can do just that.
 
Most search software provide organic results, an indexer or crawler loads all documents in a search database. Based on the queries entered the search database displays the results that best match the query. Intelligent search systems need to know that some things may mean different things. And modify results so that each of the different meanings is displayed in the first results, instead of showing 500 links about the first meaning if that one is most popular.
 
Companies that use search on their site may want to consider guiding the search in some way. Instead of depending on organic results for common queries -like a product number- you want to choose the first results – a product or support page for example. If you need this behavior include it in your selection criteria, not all solutions provide this functionality.
 
Software and hardware solutions for implementing text search:

 

 

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.

Search

Monday 6 October 2008

Implementing search in a website has one big problem associated with it:

People think search is like Google and relatively easy to implement. If you have read some of the history about Google, you this is not true: giving good answers to users search queries is very hard. Google has done exceptionally well in hiding something very complex behind a very compelling and easy to use interface. An interface that seems to just work. Google is a perfect example of how users behave, it is not about optimal results it is about good enough results.

So lesson # 1: do not underestimate the complexity of implementing a good search solution for your website. As a consequence think up front how important search is, what kind of search your visitors expect, how you want to use search to guide navigation and how much time, effort, resources and thus money you want to spent.

In subsequent posts I will talk about meta versus free text search, and non organic search algorithms.

A great book about the history of Google is “The Google Story” by David Vise.