I talked with Keith Instone about Search Patterns. Keith is a lead information architect at IBM where he's working with the UX and IT teams on the next generation of search for ibm.com. Here are some highlights (notes not quotes):
- One goal is to make search more contextual. Where is the user when they start to search? We can deliver context-sensitive results. But what if our educated guess is wrong? We must let the user drill down or go sideways.
- We're conceiving of search as a separate space with unique layout and navigation for result pages.
- Simply defining a shared vocabulary is a challenge. What's the difference between a filter and a facet? Filters are visible (e.g., link, tab, checkbox) whereas facets are conceptual and "behind the scenes."
- The user interface is not the biggest challenge. First, search is a massive IT project. Given millions of documents, it's not easy to index all and only the right stuff efficiently. Second, getting the content tagged with high-quality metadata (e.g., language, part numbers) is difficult in such a decentralized organization.
- While search is a project, it's also a process. We employ a mix of tools and methods (e.g., the search elsewhere test) to solicit feedback and drive continuous improvement.
Keith predicted that trying to make site search work as well as web search will remain an ongoing challenge. This made me wonder whether it would ever make sense for Google to license domain-specific PageRank data as an input into site search algorithms. Probably not, since Data is the Intel Inside, but it's an interesting idea. Thanks Keith for a thought-provoking conversation!
The Externalities of Search 2.0 by Michael Zimmer examines privacy threats emerging where search meets Web 2.0.
Charles Knight has posted a list of the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines. Be sure to try them all.