Jason Blackwell: Interview

I talked with Jason Blackwell about Search Patterns. Jason, a user experience specialist at IBM, has led an enterprise social search project that uses bookmark and tag data from Dogear to improve search and social networking.

The team wanted to keep the main intranet search results (official data) front and center while offering social data as an extra feature. The initial design adopted the Google model with filter tabs for each content type (e.g., blogs, wikis, forums, news, people). But users didn't visit the tabs very often.

The new design adopted the Ask model with a customizable sidebar (to the right of results) that by default presents three preview results for each content type. Click-throughs skyrocketed. A nice example of how seemingly small design details can make a big difference. Other highlights (notes not quotes) include:

  • We review the top 300 queries (which account for 30-40% of all searches each week) and manually adjust the Best Bets as necessary.
  • Tags and bookmarks impact the ranking of the main search results.
  • We may add personalization and narrow/broaden capabilities.

Jason noted that designers no longer own the search user experience. At IBM, folks use Greasemonkey to add new sources to the sidebar. And, on the Web, StumbleUpon injects social data into Google results. By providing APIs and RSS feeds, we can open search to support further customization and innovation.