[thelist] Searches and Usability

Martin martin at members.evolt.org
Thu Aug 23 15:45:25 CDT 2001

Susan Wallace wrote on 23/8/01 8:15 pm

>What seems to be conflicting is the use of a search function in a site. I 
>have seen articles where a search function is considered mandatory, and 
>others where it is considered taboo. From what I understand, the "taboo" 
>camp sees it as harmful in the instance that the visitor does not know what 
>they are looking for and they try various combinations of words that they 
>think would help them find something, often resulting in frustration. I 
>have seen it mentioned that some folks use it as an excuse not to read 
>anything on the screen, no matter how "usable" the site is deemed to be. On 
>the other side of that, I have seen guidelines given for "If your site has 
>xx pages or more..." then a search function is essential.

Hi Susan

What the 'search is bad' people seem to be saying is 'bad search is bad'
which is true.

The research shows that about 50% of people search the moment they
hit a site, 25% of people browse for a while - if they can't find what
they want, then they search, and the rest exhibit a mixture of behaviours.

User-Centred Design would suggest that you'd need to support all these
groups, which means search on the home page (for the search directed
users), and search on every other page (because you don't know when
users are going to give up).

What might be useful if you have a range of key terms, particularly
if they're easily misspelled, is to have a pre-filled search using
a dropdown. A site I'm working on rn will have about 30 of these,
almost none in the target market's native language, and pretty much
all hard to spell.

Jen's right, though - Atomz is a fine search engine with all sorts of
nicities like support for misspellings. I just wish it'd use my
descriptions metatag in its results.


email: martin at easyweb.co.uk             PGP ID: 0xA835CCCB
       martin at members.evolt.org      snailmail: 30 Shandon Place
  tel: +44 (0)774 063 9985                      Edinburgh,
  url: http://www.easyweb.co.uk                 Scotland

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