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Special Search Tools Issue, Part 1

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Search Interface Usability Studies

Things you might not know about how real people search
http://www.searchtools.com/analysis/how-people-search.html
Results from studies of people using search engines provide some clues about improving search interfaces. Marc Resnick and Rebeca Lergier of Florida International University contrast what users want and what search engines want to give them. They discuss the "Pre-Click Confidence" level of users in search results based on the user's conceptual model of the current task, the fields they want to see, and propose different approaches to results display.

Taxonomy of Web Search Forms
http://www.bobulate.com/popups_full/search_p1.html
This analysis proposes a taxonomy of search forms for web sites. The categories identified are standard search forms (search field, button, perhaps a link to advanced search); surfacing: forms with search zones or filters based on site taxonomy; and qualifying: with other filters such as date, or local vs. global. Passive search interfaces are just links to search forms, rather than live fields.

Interesting Search Engine Articles

Delphi Report on Search and Taxonomy
http://www.searchtools.com/info/overviews.html#taxondelphi
http://www.delphigroup.com/coverage/taxonomy.htm
(guest or customer access required)
The Delphi survey finds that many managers spend at least 2 hours every day searching for information, are frustrated by inadequate tools and dynamic data, and hope to address it with classification and metadata tagging systems. It goes into some detail on the need for better information tools and the search and categorization approaches available. Mainly concentrates on taxonomy and content classification tools.

When Searching Is No Longer Enough
Internet Retailer, April 2002
http://www.internetretailer.com/article.asp?id=6476
Discusses online store search engines: Mercado, EasyAsk, Endeca, and Netrics, referring to the 2001 Forrester report. Describes customer needs for technology that allows both searching and browsing by category or product attribute. Includes evidence of the good results at Tower Records with Endeca, but finds few examples of faceted metadata usage. Includes additional references to studies of e-commerce search engine demands and limits, suggesting significant changes from the traditional "relevance ranking" approach. Changes include recognizing the problems of a long search result, redirecting searches for brands or products not carried to similar available products, sorting and drilling down on product attributes, spelling correction and synonyms.

A Wave Of Innovations Heats Up Site Search
Forrester TechStrategy Brief, March 1, 2002 (customer access required)
http://www.forrester.com/ER/Research/Brief/Excerpt/0,1317,14665,00.html
Describes several new features of site search including better relevance as pioneered by the public Google search engine and the Google Search Appliance (does not cover whether it works in controlled link environments), improved forgiveness to handle misspellings and mismatched vocabularies as implemented by Netrics, automated intelligence - classification and categorization engines such as Autonomy and the new ClearForest, and creative pricing, mentioning EasyAsk, which in one installation, received a percentage of increased revenue. Describes the market difficulties including the high number of vendors and shrinking corporate site budgets.

Knowledge Access - MIT Project Oxygen
http://oxygen.lcs.mit.edu/KnowledgeAccess.html
Research projects at the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab present innovative approaches to personalized, collaborative and communal knowledge access. Starts from the individual and works out, rather than the traditional KM approach of storing en masse. Aspects include how the storing and representing data as objects and arcs of related objects, automated ways of acquiring and accessing data, human annotation, user pattern recognition and other interactions. Current projects include a natural-language question answering system, a personal information manager and work with the W3C's Semantic Web project.

Generating Simple URLs for Search Engines
http://www.searchtools.com/robots/goodurls.html
Dynamic URLs, with question marks and other punctuation, tend to put off search engine indexing robots, as well as humans looking at URLs. URL rewriting is a way to convert dynamic URLs to simple ones, but there are problems, mainly with relative links to graphics and other pages. This article offers a checklist for changing URLs on a site, links to detailed instructions for Apache and PHP, and links to rewrite filters for IIS/ASP sites.

Tomorrow: New and updated search tools.

Avi Rappoport, Principal Consultant for Search Tools Consulting, is the leading authority on site, Intranet and topical portal search engines.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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