Designing Search

I'm excited to learn that Designing Search by Greg Nudelman is now publicly available. It's a brilliant book that overflows with illustrations and insights.

Designing Search

In celebration, I'm posting the foreword. If you have any interest in search, I highly recommend you read Greg's book. Of course, you should also read:

After reading all four books, you'll have a real appreciation for just how much you still don't know about search. Welcome to the club!

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Advanced Search

In response to Lou (and Chris), I'm posting this Search Patterns excerpt:

A relative concept, advanced search includes whatever simple search doesn't. It's a pattern that many of us love to hate. Often, advanced search is a clumsy add-on that's rarely used, and it lets engineers and designers take the easy way out. Valuable features that are difficult to integrate into the main interface can be relocated to the ghetto and forgotten.

Plus, there's confusion about its purpose. Is it a user-friendly query builder for novices or a power tool for experts? Many interfaces try (and fail) to be both. For instance, isn't it fair to assume that users who understand what "exact phrase" means also know to use quotation marks to specify such a search? The main problem with Boolean isn't the syntax, it's the logic. And even the plain language shown in Figure 4-28 is unlikely to help the few novices who brave the intimidating realm of advanced search.

Advanced Search

This pattern also suffers from an ignorance of context. Searches are situated. They take place in a space. Having navigated through music to the folk genre, users may want to search without leaving. Scoped search is a pattern that meets this need. There's a risk that users won't see the scope, but overrides in the case of few or no results can help. In most cases, users benefit, because scoped search caters to context. In contrast, advanced search often teleports us to a distant, unfamiliar locale.

It's disruptive to flow.

Interestingly, Exalead, shown in Figure 4-29, combines help and advanced search without asking users to leave. A click on Advanced Search launches an interactive menu below the box. It's unconventional and a little clumsy, but definitely worth a look.

Despite these difficulties, advanced search isn't only an antipattern. It does help some users learn about the available metadata fields and vocabularies, and offers a path toward greater precision through field-specific searching. Plus, even when we reject the advanced/basic dichotomy and build robust functionality into the main interface, and strive to support contextual queries with scoped search, it's inevitable that some features that are useful for some tasks and for some people will be left out.

In fact, we should worry if they're not. Advanced search offers a safe harbor for edge cases and a clear path to progressive disclosure. For instance, Flickr includes features in advanced search, like limit by license, that simply don't belong on the main stage.

Of equal import, advanced search in concept, if not by name, gets us to think outside the box. What's the basic interface missing? How else might users wish to search? These are the questions that lead to innovations like Midomi's search by singing, GazoPa's discover by drawing, and Etsy's fabulously fun feature, explore by color.

Etsy's Advanced Search

In conclusion, advanced search is a pattern on the edge. In practice, it's often abused and rarely used. It can be rendered unnecessary by the narrowing and scoping of faceted navigation and personalization. Yet, like federated search, it invites us to go further in our search for ideas, and serves as a forgiving playground for experiments and exploration.

Strange Connections

A special edition of Radio Johnny in which Clifton B interviews presenters from the fifth annual IDEA 2010 conference in Philadelphia.

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Endeca's Pattern Library

I'm excited by the launch of Endeca's design pattern library for search and discovery. I've been eagerly awaiting this release since my sneak peek back when Mark Burrell and I collaborated on our virtual seminar.

Endeca's Pattern Library

The library is well-designed. It's organized by industry, topic, and usage. And each pattern includes a problem summary, usages, constraints and challenges, solution elements, examples, and links for further reading.

A few of my favorites are Range Slider, Analytics Dashboard, Breadbox, and Persistent Comparison List. And, I'm already keeping an eye on the feed for new patterns. The folks at Endeca have unparalleled experience in the design and implementation of search and discovery applications. I'm thrilled by how they are sharing this knowledge and engaging with the community.

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Search Patterns T-Shirt

We're excited to be giving away hundreds of shirts thanks to our contest sponsor Endeca plus a whole bunch of books thanks to O'Reilly Media.

Search Patterns T-Shirt

In sync with these events (SXSW, IA Summit, Enterprise Search Summit), we'll run three editions of the contest. You don't need to attend to win, but you'd do well to follow me on Twitter. Each edition will begin with a tweet.

We'll announce book winners here and via Twitter, and we'll notify t-shirt winners directly by email. Also, if we need to clarify or change the rules (see also: Calvinball) we'll do that here too. Good luck!

Enterprise Search Summit, Final Edition

The book winners must send me their name, twitter handle, and mailing address so we can ship your books. Our book winners are:

@amit_sathe @cerasoli @davidmead @dericloh @DiogoCosentino @dlemen @ebuie @GaryJAnderson @GGFM @jaganadhg @jcelgin @juanjosaurio @launchabomb @lbrt @leonkadoch @LukanX @milissa @mrydsbo @PaulBrayford @plumbinfo @RaelinM @roodvosje @stratosferik @treith @Vsmoothe

Shirt winners will be notified directly. Congratulations! Thanks for playing!

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Interesting Moments in Search

How can search results create a “teachable” moment? It's a great question (thanks Mac) and here are the inklings of an answer.

Teachable Moment

The most basic way to get someone's attention is this: Break a pat tern.

That's one of my favorite quotes from Made to Stick. And it's relevant to results that are not. We enter a few keywords, view the results, and realize we haven't found what we need or expect. It's precisely at this moment that we're most ready to learn. Surprise begets discovery. It's an opportunity to enhance both information literacy and the user experience.

That's why it's vital to think of the search engine results page (SERP) as a map. Of course, it's also the territory and must offer simple next steps for clarification, refinement, and discovery. The faceted navigation pattern serves both purposes admirably, but it's not the only way. What are some other design patterns that rise to the challenge of the “teachable” moment?

Strange Connections

Don't miss these Interesting Moments with Bill Scott.

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Search Patterns: The Party

If you can make it to Ann Arbor, please join us at our butterfly book launch party. Check out the original email invite (below) designed by Q LTD for details. Space is limited, so please let us know if you'll be coming.

Search Patterns Book Launch Party Invite

And, if you can't attend, you can still enter the book raffle. Cheers!

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I was enjoying this video about the SixthSense project, which I learned about from this IxDA post when this crazy lemur leapt onto the screen...

SixthSense Lemur

...and made my day. Very cool! Oh, and if you like that video, you'll also like these videos about Project Natal for the Xbox. Thanks for the links Amit!

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Public Data

Google now makes it easier to find and compare public data. It's yet another example that shows how search can extend beyond finding into understanding.

Google Public Data

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Two Marathons

I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. My last one, several years ago, was to be better at getting revenge. Sadly, as with most resolutions, I failed. But, I do believe in setting goals. This year, I hope to run my first marathon and to write a new book. I suspect the latter goal will prove the harder. That's why I'm excited to have ensnared Jeffery Callender as co-author of Search Patterns.

Tear Down The Wall

And, to kick-start our collaboration, we've co-authored UX Deliverables. Please do let us know what you think. And, please wish me luck! On both marathons!

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Tag Galaxy

If you enjoy playing with interactive, multi-dimensional search result visualizations (and then making fun of them) as much as I do, Tag Galaxy is worth a spin.

Tag Galaxy

Once you get past the fiery star with (conceptually related) orbiting planets, the globe itself presents a surprisingly addictive interface for photo discovery.

Strange Connections

Slides from EuroIA and Picnic are sprouting up. Plus, great posts on Touch. And, if you have a minute, this rabbit video is a lot of fun.

As a supporter and advisor, I'm pleased that Project Information Literacy has been funded, thanks to a generous gift from ProQuest.

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Expanding Results

There was a good thread on the IAI Members List recently about expanding results during faceted search. For those not on the list, here are a few highlights:

Q. I'm restructuring the faceted search sidebar on an e-commerce search results page. What's your opinion about the user being able to expand results within a given search term, as well as narrow them?
A1. I do think it's worth enabling users to expand as well as narrow. NCSU's stacking breadcrumbs are an excellent way to show context and support relaxing one or more criteria. When I'm using Amazon, I often begin with a query (e.g., hitch rack), then navigate the category structure (Sports & Outdoors > Car Sports Racks > Bike Racks), and then wish I could remove my original query term (so I can see all items in the category, not just hitch racks), but with Amazon, I can't do that easily.
A2. In some usability studies we've done (at NCSU Libraries) we found that without prior training, a small percentage of users take advantage of this de-selection functionality. Most folks seem to ignore it. For those that "get it" it can be quite a handy tool for managing a large result set as it allows the user to expand and contract with minimal interaction...The larger the catalog, the more I think facet management tools (like de-selection buttons) add value.

For more, here's the thread. Not a member? Time to sign up!

Strange Connections

I'm now an official UX Pioneer. To learn how my parents' laughter drove me into a career in information architecture, read my story.

Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing, intends to replace the Dewey Decimal System with the Open Shelves Classification. Go Tim!

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Christina Wodtke: A Quick Word

I talked with Christina Wodtke about Search Patterns. Christina moves fast and wears many hats including Principal Product Manager at LinkedIn, Founder of Cucina Media, Publisher of Boxes & Arrows, and author of Blueprints for the Web. Plus, she co-founded the IA Institute and led the ux design group at Yahoo! responsible for the revival of search and the reinvention of shopping.


Christina believes search is perfect for patterns because behavior is fairly stable and predictable. As she noted in Long Tails and Short Queries, the patterns observed by Amanda Spink in 1997 haven't changed much. For instance, most web queries are still short, 2 to 3 terms, and include little refinement.

In that context, query disambiguation is incredibly hard, and the challenge can be summed up as: "one more word!" How do we entice users to share just a little more about their intent? Clearly Search Assist is an attempt to do just that. Christina also noted that "size matters!" Approaches that work for web search may not work for site search, and vice versa. For instance, Best Bets won't scale for web search (though Wikipedia and Mahalo sorta aim to fill that gap).

Finally, Christina was generous enough to share some unpublished writing she's done on the topic of search. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

Fast and ugly is better than slow and pretty.
Scan time is as important as load time.
If you want to see how hummingbirds fly, you'll have a hard time. They move so fast they become a blur. But, if you ask them to slow down, they can't stay aloft, and you won't learn is so fast, that if the user is forced to think [e.g., in a usability test], they slow down too much and behave unnaturally.
With search, the physical actions are few: look, type, click. What you really want to know is hidden, even from the person searching.

Thanks Christina, for slowing down for moment, to share your search insights!

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Clarify and Refine

At Endeca Discover I had an great conversation with Daniel Tunkelang about his idea that, with respect to guided navigation, we should distinguish between clarify and refine. First, we must clarify the meaning or context. Are we in the right ballpark regarding the searcher's intent? Clarify is all about disambiguation.

Then, we're ready to refine or narrow. Exactly what type of widget do you want? Refine is about increasing specificity. In Is Search Broken? Daniel hints at how we might cut through facets to clarify by leveraging guided summarization.

It's a subtle distinction, but from a designer's perspective, I think it's a valuable way to frame the search process. Clarify, then refine. What do you think?

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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.

Note: If you'd like a copy of Web Form Design, use this discount code (FINDABILITY) to save 10% off direct purchases from Rosenfeld Media.

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Tom Chi: Interview

I talked with Tom Chi about Search Patterns. As senior director of user experience at Yahoo!, Tom led last year's major redesign of Yahoo! Search which featured the launch of Search Assist.

Search Assist has two components. First, auto-complete identifies when users need search suggestions by measuring typing speed and responding to hesitations. This feature has dramatically reduced the number of misspelled queries. Second, auto-suggest identifies related concepts, and helps users to move forward (refine), backward (expand), and sideways (related).

Tom explained that this innovation resulted from careful analysis of user behavior and psychology. Their studies showed searchers hadn't become more sophisticated over the past five years, and that users often blamed themselves for poor results. By studying the ways users fail, Tom's team saw an opportunity to help users make the query smarter, one simple step at a time.

This was clearly a good move. Since launching Search Assist, Yahoo! has seen significant improvements in user satisfaction, and a 61% increase in successful task completion. And, in a recent Keynote Benchmark study, Yahoo! took first place in the search assistance category.

Tom noted that thinking creatively about how you define the problem is essential to innovation. There are conspicuous opportunities (e.g., social, multimedia, ubiquitous access), but we must also seek the less obvious possibilities (e.g., making search invisible).

He finds inspiration in such works as Edward O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life. As Tom noted "any system, as it becomes more complex, approximates a biological system." That's an intriguing perspective for someone tasked with inventing the future of search. Good luck Tom!

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Faceted Search: An Interview with Tito Sierra

I met Tito Sierra at the IA Summit in Miami, and we talked soon afterwards about his experiences with faceted search. Previously at, Tito has spent the past few years at NCSU Libraries, working with a great team to transform the library catalog and identify best practices for search design.

NCSU Library Catalog

In addition to sharing lessons learned via Endeca at the NCSU Libraries, they've extended their successful model to the Triangle Research Libraries, and created a research testbed for faceted search and navigation.

Highlights (notes not quotes) from my conversation with Tito include:

  • We went overboard at first by exposing twelve facets. Our studies showed users suffering from "facet fatique." The new design has a smaller facet footprint, and we removed the prominent LCC browser.
  • We're also employing collapsible facets, quickfilter checkboxes, and stacking breadcrumbs to use space wisely.
  • Facets are ordered by frequency of use (e.g., subjects are most popular) and grouped by type (e.g., exploratory versus known item search).
  • We've created virtual hierarchies (e.g., formats under Videos and DVDs).
  • We've designed "facet triggers." For instance, upon selecting an institution (e.g., Duke), users are shown individual libraries (e.g., Law).

I also asked Tito about the future of search. As massive digitization projects (e.g., Google, OCA) mature, he's excited by the prospect of discovery interfaces that leverage both algorithms and structured metadata. Tito also sees potential in personal search and the use of past queries to inform future results.

Finally, Tito is committed to advancing our shared understanding of search. His testbed is designed to make it easy for researchers to experiment with and gather data on a variety of faceted search and navigation interfaces. If you're interested in learning more, please contact Tito.

Strange Connections

Check out The Noisy Channel by Daniel Tunkelang, chief scientist at Endeca.

Karl Fast told me about Evernote. Ready to build a search engine for your life?

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Brian Goodman: Interview

I talked with Brian Goodman about Search Patterns. As manager of IBM's WebAhead Lab, Brian identifies and develops emerging technologies (6 to 18 month time horizon) that can be applied to solve real business problems.

During the past year, Brian's group has focused on building social spaces (e.g., blogs, wikis) and platforms (e.g., tools for bookmarking, tagging, rating, and reputation management) that support integration. For instance, they designed an enterprise tagging system with widgets that can be integrated into any service.

This platform approach has enabled the integration of social content into enterprise search. The first step was a portlet (on the side of result pages) featuring blog posts and bookmarked articles. Subsequent adoption and satisfaction were higher than expected.

The team then went further by integrating social data (e.g., ratings, tag frequency) directly into the algorithms for enterprise search. A page that's been bookmarked, for instance, receives a boost. In similar fashion to Google's PageRank, this approach to socially influenced search improves both result relevance and user satisfaction.

Other highlights (notes not quotes) from my conversation with Brian include:

  • Created a recommender system that leverages folksonomies and taxonomies (which are deconstructed into tags). Users can subscribe to tags and taggers (people). The recommendations are surprisingly good.
  • Created a reputation system built on peer review and feedback that became a fantastic source of data for expertise search (which is also integrated into enterprise search).
  • These tools help people identify content and individuals they wouldn't normally find by searching.

Looking ahead in search, Brian sees more personalization, and a profound need for new interaction models that make complex queries simple.

Strange Connections

If you can't go to the IA Summit, or if you're like me and can't wait to get there, check out Meet Your Peers by Jorge Arango. See y'all soon!

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Behavior & Design

I've added a collection to Search Patterns that includes concept visuals, behavior patterns, and design patterns (e.g., faceted navigation).

Pearl Grow

Also, with the help of my Blackberry Curve (I dropped my trusty Treo one too many times), I've added several new examples to mobile search. I'd love your feedback and suggestions for new patterns. Thanks!

Strange Connections

Going to the IA Summit? Then, create a personal schedule using Crowdvine.

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Will Evans: Interview

I talked with Will Evans about Search Patterns. As an information architect and interaction designer, he's designed search for such sites as Kayak and Gather.

Will is an amazing source of insight and examples. He's already contributed to the pattern library but was willing to share more, including Volkswagen UK (faceted navigation), and the Encyclopedia of Life (taxonomy visualization).

Will noted we must look beyond our immediate disciplines and vocabularies for sources of innovation. In that spirit, he recommends the following:

Will is now with CrowdSprout, a startup that will aggregate supply and demand by using the power of social networking and e-commerce. In other words, it's a search system that helps buyers and sellers find deals. Good luck Will!

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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.

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My favorite contribution to Search Patterns this week is WineM.


Here's an excerpt from last year's press release:

The smart wine rack uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to track individual bottles in the rack and identifies ones that fit the users' wine selection criteria. Collectors and restaurants can use WineM racks to search collections, track specific bottles, update information about wine in real time, and manage inventory visually...the wine in a collection can now be dynamically reorganized by any combination of year, region, price, or any other information axis that interests the collector or sommelier.

A handheld device accepts queries, and full-color LED lights transform the elegant wine rack and the bottles themselves into a search results interface. The system even supports faceted navigation. Very cool!

Strange Connections

I'm happy my disturbing hole has wormed its way into the minds of futurists.

If you're coming to the IA Summit in Miami, please consider the IA Institute's Leadership Seminar. An important topic and some great speakers!

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Keith Instone: Interview

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 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!

Strange Connections

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.

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Jenifer Tidwell: Interview

My research for Search Patterns will include a series of interviews, and I'll blog the highlights. My first is with Jenifer Tidwell, a pioneering curator of interaction and interface design patterns and the author of Designing Interfaces.

Jenifer is currently consulting with Endeca on development of a pattern library for guided navigation, and she's been actively collecting interesting (good and bad) examples of search interfaces. Here are a few:

She also passed along a link (from Will Evans) to Technology Review's special report on Next-Generation Search (free registration required) where I found Midomi, a singing search application that lets you find music with your voice.

Jenifer and I then discussed the need to identify a richer set of search design and behavior patterns (beyond Faceted Navigation and Best Bets) and the importance of illustrating the combinatorial complexity of search system design (e.g., to support user interactions that combine multiple patterns).

In short, a great first interview. Thanks Jenifer!

Strange Connections

Thanks for all the suggested search patterns, examples, ideas, and resources (e.g., Liz Danzico's search interface types). I'm adding to the search pattern library as time allows. Please keep 'em coming!

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As an advisor, I'm happy to see Clueray launch the public beta.


The site is slow and rough, but the idea is promising: a recommendation engine that auto-magically clusters search results by document intent.

Kurt and George are in conversations around licensing their patent-pending IntentMatch technology for use with other search and search-based applications. If you'd like to talk or just provide feedback, please pull this string.

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Search Patterns

I'm working on a new book (and talk) about the future of search, and I've created a seed collection of patterns and examples to support my research.

Search Patterns

Please add tags, notes, and comments, and suggest new examples. Over time, I hope to include patterns that illustrate user behavior and the information architecture of search. I'll be blogging about search patterns as the collection and my ideas evolve. If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know.

Strange Connections

If you enjoy great wine, delicious food, and talking about faceted search, FIND'08 is the place for you. I visited Torino a few years ago and loved it!

Alison Head is leading a new research initiative called Project Information Literacy. I've agreed to serve as an advisor. It's an important and timely topic!

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Music Search

Songza, a music search engine from Humanized, sports a beautiful interface that leaves MusicIP, SeeqPod, and SkreemR scratching in the dust.


The music quality isn't great. It's streamed from YouTube. It may even be illegal. But how can you not love a product that so eloquently integrates a rich, viral feature set with transparent messages and a sinfully delicious pie menu?

Strange Connections

IxDA thread about Songza. Aza Raskin will be speaking at Interaction 08.

Nice list of interface design quotes.

Here comes another bubble.

The IA Institute is hiring an Executive Director. Spread the word!

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Keeping Found Things Found

I've been a fan of KFTF for some time, so I was happy to serve as a technical editor for William Jones' book about personal information management.

Keeping Found Things Found

And, I'm even happier to see that Keeping Found Things Found will ship within a few weeks. It's priced as a textbook, but after you read my blurb...

Keeping Found Things Found is the missing manual for 21st century literacy. We're at the epicenter of a rapidly expanding universe of personal information. Books, music, photos, videos, email, contacts, calendars, wills, bills, records, and receipts: how can we keep our piles and files from spiraling out of control? William Jones has the answer in this important book about finding our memories and organizing our lives. A must-read for designers, developers, librarians, and anyone else who cares about the future of information interaction.

...I'm sure you won't be able to resist finding and keeping this book.

Strange Connections

I've joined the advisory board of Clueray, a search startup based in Ann Arbor. Kurt Skifstad, the founder and president, is headed to Silicon Valley to talk with potential partners and investors. If you'd like to talk with Kurt, let me know.

I recently stumbled upon Bruce Sterling's hand-scribbled visual essay on Understanding the Spime. It's nice to see the ambient findability meme is securely lodged in the brain of my favorite science fiction author.

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Elastic Lists

This is a wonderful demo of elastic lists by designer Moritz Stefaner.

Elastic Lists

The visual nature of the interface really encourages you to explore and interact and play with the data set, an example of information aesthetics in action.

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Scroogling the Future

In Scroogled, Cory Doctorow asks the question: What if Google were evil?


It's a funny, brilliant, unsettling story. I recommend it highly! But, be sure to dim your lights and turn off Google Desktop before following the link.

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Attention Analytics

I had breakfast with Lou Rosenfeld today, and during a conversation that inevitably wandered into search analytics, Lou wondered if there was a single article, talk, or interview that had sent the most eyeballs my way in recent years.

This was all the excuse I needed for some late summer procrastination, so I dove into Google Analytics for a quick swim. stats

On the blog side, my Washington Post chat is the winner, followed closely by the NPR interview, the Slashdot book review, and my announcement of the original Laughing Lemur Contest. stats

On the Semantic Studios side, my Information Architecture 3.0 article blows the competition out of the water. Nothing draws attention like a fracas. source stats

Beyond that, my Semantic Studios traffic is fairly steady, with a substantial portion driven by search engines, thanks to high rankings on such queries as authority, social network analysis, and user experience. keyword stats

And, in gray, trailing into the distance, is the long tail of the lemur, sporting such uncommon queries as "swedish marketing blunders" and "yosemite beef jerky."

Heh. I'm suddenly feeling very hungry. Wow, it's getting late. I've spent the whole day on analytics. Thanks a lot Lou!

Strange Connections

If you missed the original skirmish, you can get a piece of IA 3.0 this October at Smart Experience in New York or ASIS&T in Milwaukee.

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Ms. Dewey

While reading about the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines, I stumbled upon Ms. Dewey.

Ms. Dewey

If you haven't tried Ms. Dewey, you should. She's undoubtedly a core element of Microsoft's strategy to kill Google and own search.

Strange Connections

Dave's Why Rich slides are worth a look for the rich definitions and examples.

The 2007 NFAIS Annual Conference promises to be a great event for disruptive information professionals.

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Enterprise Search Summit

The advance program for ESS 2006 is now available. I'm already looking forward to my annual stroll through Central Park. See you in New York!

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The Long Tail of Place

As the geospatial web goes mainstream, I suspect we will wander the long tail of place, migrating beyond the usual points of interest covered in travel guides, following roads less traveled to unknown places that indulge our idiosyncrasies.

There are undoubtedly scores of small and unusual restaurants, bars, shops, museums, rivers, parks, and paths that will become more traveled thanks to Google Maps and the imminent mass annotation of physical space.

While we're on the topic, you might want to pre-order The Long Tail now, and grab The Adventures of Long Tail while you're at it.

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Book Rank

Chris McEvoy, the man behind the Userati, has created an interesting new mashup called Book Rank. Here's how it works:

  1. Take a single book from Amazon as a root.
  2. Take the recommended books for that book.
  3. Repeat until you have reached a distance of 20 from the original book.
  4. Add up the number of recommendations for each book.
  5. Calculate BookRank from the Distance, Recommendations, SalesRank.
  6. Display the 250 books with the highest BookRank.

Seems like a useful, novel way to find books.

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Google Base

Google Base is a general purpose metadata registry and cataloging service that allows users to create records that describe digital and physical objects. Google may use this metadata to create stand-alone services like eBay and craigslist and/or to enhance Google's regular search results with guided navigation.

Or maybe not. It's actually quite difficult to define. Right now, it's chock full of porn, spam, and information architecture. In all this confusion, I'm hoping to get rich quick by selling this chair. The ability to tag physical objects is certainly interesting. If nothing else, Google Base brings us one step closer to UFOs.

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Evaluating Search

Google will no longer tell us how many billions of web pages they've indexed, though they do claim to be "more than 3 times larger than any other search engine." John Battelle tells the story over on Searchblog.

Of course, index size is a flawed metric. Most users never get past the first 10 results, and neither Google nor Yahoo! lets you explore beyond the first 1,000 hits. And if you're crazy enough to dig deep into the result sets of Google and Yahoo!, you'll find that both pad their indexes with spam. For a search index, quality counts, and sometimes less is more.

It will be interesting to see how the search wars play out in the coming months. As the playing field becomes level with respect to speed and size, it seems clear that brand, relevance, and user experience design will be the keys to competitive advantage. What do you think?

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You Are Here

Welcome to the next generation. In case you haven't noticed, it's a borg. I mean, it's a blog. Yes, after years of quiet resistance, I've succumbed to the call of the blogosphere. I've been assimilated.

In blogging, my most transparent and prosaic goal is to promote my new book, Ambient Findability. I've poured blood, sweat, and tears into this strange text, so I won't be shy about inviting folks to read it.

That said, I'm hoping this blog will go beyond the book. As my classification scheme hints, I'll be writing about authority, business, culture, design, search, ubicomp, etc. And let's not forget the oft-maligned category of miscellaneous. I very much reserve the right to write about seemingly random topics.

So, if you want the original findability, it's there but not here. And if you like this new place, please come again, or better yet, leave a piece of yourself behind.

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