Luke Wroblewski: Interview

I talked with Luke Wroblewski about Search Patterns. Luke is Senior Principal of Product Ideation & Design at Yahoo!, Principal of LukeW Interface Designs, and the author of Web Form Design, a new book from Rosenfeld Media.

Our conversation began with a look at Search Monkey and Glue Pages. Search Monkey is an open platform that allows developers to enhance search results with rich media and structured data. The search gallery shows available enhancements such as Epicurious and Search Monkey is an important step towards the vision of search as a platform.

Glue Pages are specialized, enhanced, federated search result pages for select queries such as apple, banana, coffee, etc. This flexible, modular platform may fold into Yahoo's open strategy so developers can create custom results.

Luke went on to highlight a few behavior and design patterns:

  • Query Refinement. Most users won't refine pre-query. They don't know the size and range of the index. But they will refine post-query, and it provides tremendous value.

  • Search Assistance. Studies show a correlation between the number of words in the query and satisfaction with results. Search Assist improves query richness. Tips (e.g., did you mean?) improve confidence and suggestions (e.g., related concepts) can shift users into exploratory mode.
  • Layout. For query refinement tools, we found the right rail is the least discoverable. The top is the most obvious, but suggestions can get in the way of results. That's why search assist is on top but hidden by default. Other examples include Local and Shopping.
  • Vertical Search. In verticals such as News and Games, we've found that people are fine with two search boxes, one for the vertical and one for web search. In each vertical, we're selectively exposing structured metadata (e.g., pricing in Autos) to support the decision making process.

In the future, Luke sees deeper integration of applications into results. The query is an expression of intent. Sometimes users simply want to find information, but often they want to complete a task or achieve a goal. For instance, if you're searching for indiana jones, you may want to watch the trailer, find a nearby theater, invite friends, and buy tickets. We can get them closer to the action.

For inspiration, Luke keeps an eye on interesting startups, but feels it's critical to also look outside of search at the broader trends on the Web. At present, rich content is drawing users' attention, the barrier of entry to application development is falling, and social tools are producing mountains of potentially valuable social data. So, according to Luke, we can expect to find some interesting results in the future of search.

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