ILI2007 — Report, II

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Designing search result pages

Martin White, MD, Intranet focus

Martin White is a good speaker, he presented a set of quality background documents in the conference compendium in addition to a Powerpoint that didn’t suck (an achievement in itself).

He provided some good insights into search results pages, not only in regard to what not to do, but also what he considers good practice. Some of Martin’s most interesting insights were about what is generally accepted as good practice, but is just de facto (i.e. what Google is doing). Five key points can be gleaned from his presentation:

  • Data like processing times, unqualified “more like this” links and lists with 200+ items are irrelevant to users; rather give them a clear layout with relevant information about the returned content
  • It is better to provide slower, higher quality results than quick, but dirty ones
  • Providing too much information does not help users, it needs to be bite-sized and well packaged
  • A good search infrastructure requires a lot of people working at optimizing the search (White reckoned at least four people working exclusively with this task per institution/company)
  • Future challenges include searching information from disparate sources, such as wikis, blogs, repositories of different kinds, eMails, IMs, video and rich media, etc.

All-in-all, Martin White’s presentation provided a lot of food for thought, especially considering the highly relevant criticisms of Google. His examples of good search results pages included nature.com, and bad searches included bp.com. Try the linked searches and see for yourself.


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