The Search For What You Want

Giving search users what they want not what they’re asking for‘, is the name of a guest post written by Seth Early and Jeannine Bartlett for Fierce Content Management. The message is that we need to think of a broader concept of findability because the issues associated with current search functions are affecting “site search effectiveness”. The search box used on most sites provides a good compliment to the search if a users can’t find what they are looking for through navigation, but should not be the only search option available. Although the option to refine your search in some way is necessary, having to move to another page to perform an advanced search is mentioned as another issue. User’s don’t generally like doing this and search terms can in general be quite ambiguous and thus not return very relevant, if any, results….even if the user typed in what they wanted to find.

Online retailers are however used as a good example here as they tend to use ‘navigated searches’ rather than the ordinary search box. This makes the users believe that they are navigating their way through the system, when in fact, they are conducting a search. The reason for this are a few “usability tricks”, one being that instead of having to type in your own search term, the content of the system is presented to you as navigational links. You also don’t have to move to another page to perform the search.
But in order for a navigated search to function effectively, it is concluded that you need to have a well structured taxonomy and a set of controlled keywords used in this taxonomy which can help the user find what they want. In turn, you have to understand the user and mirror these keywords, so it matches the intent of the user and appearsrelevant to them.