Comment: Eric Scheid (Sep 2, 2004)
We could also build up a bunch of questions which deal with how the site owner gets to manage their search tool.
1. Do they even have logs available to do log analysis with?
3. Is their content date driven (eg. press releases), and does their search tool prioritise recent content over older content?
4. Is there a feedback loop between search queries and the spelling/theasaurus functions?
Comment: matt gregg (Sep 2, 2004)
the only thing I thought about that I didn't see was something along the lines of:
If no results are returned, does the system offer users ideas or options for improving their query based on identifiable problems with their input.
And then..is it easy for them to carry this search out.
This might be covered in some of the contextual help lines above, but those seemed to speak to having result to do something with.
a great checklist:)
Comment: Mike Jaixen (Sep 2, 2004)
Great list! My only complaint is that I wish I had this list about a month ago, when I was putting together some requirements for a search engine!
Comment: James Robertson (Sep 2, 2004)
Great list Lou, although it does strike me as targeting more expert users rather than general site visitors (narrowing and saving searches is pretty advanced).
This is another resource (that I had some involvement in writing) on search guidelines:
Comment: Lou (Sep 2, 2004)
James, thanks for the excellent pointer. I agree--some of these aren't appropriate for all users, just as some aren't for all sites (e.g., small sites wouldn't employ search zones). Maybe the best way to look at these is as a superset of what you'd actually use for a specific project.
Matt, another good point; it's somewhat implicit in a few of the guidelines listed above, but it's important to make this point crystal clear.
Thanks for the input everyone!
Comment: peterme (Sep 3, 2004)
Jeff Veen recently wrote an essay of interest to those who are seeking search heuristics:
8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine
I do think you're missing some very basic stuff. Such as, "Do you treat '0 results' helpfully?", and "Do you handle empty queries well?" (Jared Spool had an interesting stat that among the most popular search queries is a blank search, the result of clicking on a "search" button, thinking it was a link to a search page, not realizing you were expected to enter text in a box to the left of the button.
Comment: Lou (Sep 3, 2004)
Good suggestions; another one is handling the entry of a URL into the search box, another common error.
Comment: Are Halland (Sep 3, 2004)
Me any my UX-team here at WM-data Norway recently published a report evaluating the "search experience" on 25 norwegian websites. Here's a short version of our list of evaluation criterias:
1. Finding, understanding and performing search: "Is it easy to find the search function, understand it and perform a search?". Sub-criterias included: Is the search field easily located and consistently placed throughout the website? Is the search field and search button presented intuilvely? Is it possible to perform a search without having to make selections?
2. Search results: "Are the search results precise, relevant and does the presentation make it easy to evaluate which results are relevant?" Sub-criterias included: Are the most important hits (as in answearing the question in the user scenario) presented first? Are there redundant,
outdated and/or trivial results? Are the result titles and descriptions relevant and well presented?
3. Navigation, filtering and "the way forward": "Is it easy to 'get beyond' the search result, i.e. by getting more or fewer hits, sorting results, etc?"
4. Combination of search criterias: "Does the search function understand what I mean when I use combinations of several search word, and does it give me a more precise result?"
5. Misspelllings and synonyms: "Does the search function understand what I mean even if misspell something or use an other word than the site owners?"
6. No hits: "Do I have start over when I get no hits, or do I get relevant help and tips to get to the results I want?"
As you can see, all of the evaluation criterias used can also be formulated as user questions.
The report is in norwegian only (sorry) but I did do a short english write-up of it, which can be found here:
Comment: Eric Scheid (Sep 4, 2004)
is there suffienct detail in the result entries to determine relevance (eg. description, highlighted keyword hits, url, date of entry, date of last indexing, etc)?
Comment: Donna M. Fritzsche (Sep 4, 2004)
From a personal perspective this is great timing Lou! Thanks! It addresses some issues on a new project. I would also like to thank James Robertson for posting the link to the Australian Better Practices site. There is some very well-written material there (they cover a variety of topics in addition to search), and I found the examples to be immediately helpful.
Comment: Lou (Oct 5, 2004)
Thought I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Avi Rappoport's wonderful SearchTools site (http://searchtools.com/ ); any discussion of web searching should include a pointer to SearchTools.
Comment: BSalzman (Apr 27, 2005)
Great list, Lou, but you really should stop bagging on Advanced Search.
"Revise/Refine Your Search" cannot substitute for "Advanced Search" because, as the name implies, the user is revising or refining a search *that has already been performed,* whereas Advanced Search gives users advanced search options. Advanced search options and the ability to revise a search are two different things and not comparable.
Comment: Lou (Apr 27, 2005)
Perhaps, but users generally perform their initial query in a simple search box. So why expose "advanced" features from the start? Present them in a useful context, such as when that initial search didn't retrieve an especially useful result set.
That's why I like to bag on "advanced search". :-)
Comment: bsalzman (Apr 27, 2005)
Point taken. If a site allows advanced search options, I like to include a link to them up-front. Users familiar with advanced searching techniques appreciate this. It has been my experience that users who are not familiar -- or interested -- in advanced searching techniques are not offended by the word "Advanced."
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