Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SERP: user selection of results

Q: How will the users choose among the search results?

Jakob Nielsen: From the user perspective … the top one [result] is going to be the one that ... they ..will judge to be the best and that’s what people will tend to click first, and then the second one and so on. That behavior will stay the same, and the appearance will be the same, but the sorting might be different. That I think is actually very likely to happen.

Interview with Jakob Nielsen: Future of the SERP

A shame, but true. Very few people go through the search engine results scanning for other titles. Look at users browsing through music stores or book stores. They are quite willing to keep looking past the first few titles. There is not the same engagement in web searching. What is the reason for that? Is it the tactile sensation of picking up a CD or book? And how is that going to change when all music is downloaded from the web and book go the way of vinyl?

How do we bring that tactile response, that love to accumulate and touch to the web screen? I wonder how much using a mouse instead of a touch screen changes things? And to what extent are we impeded by the low resolution screens? Higher resolution screens would allow us to put a lot more secondary information on a screen, perhaps enticing users to keep searching – because the search would be much more interesting than simply reading a few characters of text.

SERP: more relevant display

Q: What changes will there be in search results pages over the next 3 years?

Jakob Nielsen: The big thing that has happened in the last 10 years was a change from an information retrieval oriented relevance ranking to being more of a popularity relevance ranking. And I think we can see a change maybe being a more of a usefulness relevance ranking. I think there is a tendency now for a lot of not very useful results to be dredged up that happen to be very popular, like Wikipedia and various blogs. They’re not going to be very useful or substantial to people who are trying to solve problems. So I think that with counting links and all of that, there may be a change and we may go into a more behavioral judgment as to which sites actually solve people’s problems, and they will tend to be more highly ranked.

Interview with Jakob Nielsen: Future of the SERP

This is one place where SE need to make drastic changes. I don't see any indication of things happening quickly but this is one of the current technology's weak spots.

As mentioned in the article columnar presentation of search results may improve the situation. Users will continue to scan results, with the majority of users giving higher relevance to top ranked returns, BUT if paid searches and content aggregated sites such as Wikipedia can be sorted out from other returns it would be a useful incremental change.

Will Google make such a change? Only if they see a ROI. Until a competitor forces them to do so I doubt we will see much of a change in the short run.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Inspirational Sites

There are two sites I have to share this holiday season. One is a fashion blog: The Sartorialist. The Sartorialist worked in the fashion industry for 15 years and now he walks through city streets (NYC, Paris, Rome) and takes pictures of ordinary people with extraordinary style. Even if you're not into fashion this site will peak your interest.

Another wonderful site is The Cool Hunter which runs the gamut covering industrial design to architecture and more.

Both sites are great when the right side of your brain needs a pick-me-up.