Today SurfWax is introducing a dynamic query suggestion tool that can be easily installed and customized on any web site.
Before Google offered its popular Google Suggest tool, Silicon Valley's SurfWax was offering dynamic search navigation technology called LookAhead.
It's available online when searching SurfWax News. In this case, LookAhead might help the searcher focus a news search with very little effort before clicking the search button. News related terms, (names, events, etc) dynamically appear in a drop-down box directly below the search interface as the searcher types letters into the search. Then all the searcher needs to do is click a suggested term or word and run the search.
The terms or lexicon come from a controlled vocabulary that SurfWax maintains. In addition to offering LookAhead technology for news search, SurfWax offers WikiWax, which allows the searcher to see the titles of Wikipedia entries prior to hitting the search button.
Technology like this has the potential to save a user a large amount of time and aggravation by helping create a more focused and precise query, thereby getting better results. It can also help when a searcher enters general terms when they're looking for something specific.
For example, a search for "dogs" when they actually want info about a dog rescue organization. Said another way, a searcher often needs help expressing what they're hoping to find. Helping the searcher with their search will become even more important as databases grow larger.
Today, SurfWax is making the LookAhead technology available for all webmasters, for a fee. It's easy to add LookAhead to your site in just a few minutes and just a few clicks.
The lexicon (the words and terms a user will see as they enter letters into the search box) can come from one or more sources (A-Z index, keywords, FAQs, product catalog, directory items, headings, etc.) and can be easily edited and supplemented. User generated "tags" can also be used in the lexicon. More about that lexicon building here.
LookAhead also allows the webmaster to specify where the searcher is taken when they make a selection. For example, the webmaster of a catalog site might want the searcher to end up on a specific product page while another webmaster would choose to use suggested term(s) as a query string on as site search query.
It's also worth mentioning that terms appearing in the drop-down box suggestion box are "rotated." So, the order in which terms are entered is not important. For example, "Apple iPod nano" would appear in the drop-down box regardless of what order the words were typed into the search box.
For more information, see SurfWax and click the links to the LookAhead information.
Dynamic search term suggestion tools like LookAhead will continue to proliferate in various forms. Why? Here are just a few reasons.
- Webmaster: Easy to implement (in the case of LookAhead) and modify
- Webmaster: Getting the searcher to what they want more quickly. Happy searchers!
- Searcher: Create more precise queries. Saves time and effort. We all need more time!
- Searcher: Little or no learning curve to use
- Searcher: Can assist as a knowledge discovery tool by allowing searchers to identify material of use that they hadn't thought of.
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.