Searching People: Best Practices

9 Apr 2009 - 6:57am
5 years ago
13 replies
605 reads
vinwonders
2008

Hi All,

Currently have some questions about searching an internal directory
of 20,000+ people.

There's some thinking that a Google appliance utilizing a white bar
with rich search capability (parameters / facets on particular
attributes) would be enough to narrow down to who you're looking
for.

There's an opposing thought that an advanced search is required
Upfront for searching by a particular first name, last name, company
name, etc.

We don't have capacity to build both. Also, testing search
functionality is *not* possible until the very end of release which
naturally limits any actions to be taken based on results of user
testing.

While I've been observing here for a while, I don't recall any
discussions on best practices for approaching people search and
curious if anyone has some direction and thinking here?

Much appreciated,
Vincent

Comments

9 Apr 2009 - 7:01am
Steve Baty
2009

Vincent,

Both options have plenty to recommend them. The one thing Google lacks which
I think is particularly useful when searching for people is a phonetic
matching algorithm. This can help overcome issues with names like Louise,
Louisa, Louissa, etc; when looking for a person who's name you've only
heard.

So I'd be looking for a solution that tackles that aspect of the problem.

Regards
Steve Baty

2009/4/9 Vincent <vin at entyi.com>

> Hi All,
>
> Currently have some questions about searching an internal directory
> of 20,000+ people.
>
> There's some thinking that a Google appliance utilizing a white bar
> with rich search capability (parameters / facets on particular
> attributes) would be enough to narrow down to who you're looking
> for.
>
> There's an opposing thought that an advanced search is required
> Upfront for searching by a particular first name, last name, company
> name, etc.
>
> We don't have capacity to build both. Also, testing search
> functionality is *not* possible until the very end of release which
> naturally limits any actions to be taken based on results of user
> testing.
>
> While I've been observing here for a while, I don't recall any
> discussions on best practices for approaching people search and
> curious if anyone has some direction and thinking here?
>
> Much appreciated,
> Vincent
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
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9 Apr 2009 - 7:10am
jayeffvee
2007

Many genealogical sites offer this sort of solution for people
search. Because literacy rates were not high in the western world
until the 20th century, spelling of names in public records was often
approximate at best, and so this is a necessary feature for people
trying to find records of their ancestors.

You might start by looking at ancestry.com, perhaps the largest and
most global of genealogy sites?

On Apr 9, 2009, at 8:01 AM, Steve Baty wrote:

> Vincent,
>
> Both options have plenty to recommend them. The one thing Google
> lacks which
> I think is particularly useful when searching for people is a phonetic
> matching algorithm. This can help overcome issues with names like
> Louise,
> Louisa, Louissa, etc; when looking for a person who's name you've only
> heard.
>
> So I'd be looking for a solution that tackles that aspect of the
> problem.
>
>

Joan Vermette
email: jayeffvee at mac.com
primary phone: 617-495-0184

9 Apr 2009 - 7:56am
Jim Kauffman
2004

Here at Vanguard we use a simple type-ahead search box based on a last
name list. The person's phone extension is listed with their name.
Advanced search is available, but most people get by with just the
type-ahead box.

Jim K.

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9 Apr 2009 - 9:13am
Joshua Porter
2007

I've had a similar experience as Jim...if you can implement type-ahead
you solve 80-90% of queries.

Also, people really *like* type-ahead.

On Apr 9, 2009, at 5:56 AM, Jim Kauffman wrote:

> Here at Vanguard we use a simple type-ahead search box based on a last
> name list. The person's phone extension is listed with their name.
> Advanced search is available, but most people get by with just the
> type-ahead box.
>
> Jim K.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=41113
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

9 Apr 2009 - 9:27am
Phillip Hunter
2006

Vincent,

Are most searches done with someone's name in mind and the searcher just needs some sort of info (phone #, email address)?

Or are searchers trying to find a name associated with a particular attribute (role, responsibility, etc.), which would be a different sort of search?

Phillip

9 Apr 2009 - 10:06am
peterpixel
2009

I agree with Philip Hunter: the type of searches normally conducted
should (or could) play a strong role in deciding which method to
apply.

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9 Apr 2009 - 7:51am
Erin Lynn Young
2009

Google Search does have the "Did You Mean" feature - perhaps that
would help in the Louise/Louisa arena?

Also look to the predictive search on Facebook as a best-in-class
example of finding people. It might be outside of your scope but is
very easy to use.

Jakob Neilsen's studies about search in general have shown that most
people don't need to see Advanced fields until after simple fields
have failed them. It'd be interesting to see those same studies
applied to searching for people in particular.

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9 Apr 2009 - 10:59am
vinwonders
2008

I can't thank everyone enough for the generous feedback here.

Scenarios are quite broad with primary emphasis on first and last
names (Steve, your point to phonetic matching is right on track for
when looking for a name you only heard ... especially with Google
appliance).

A close second are names associated with particular attribute such as
company, education, location, etc.

Scenarios that are interesting to play with a simple white bar are
last names like thompson, smith, lee. With the possibility of
spanning the globe, and a directory chuck full of companies ... you
see where I'm going.

Type ahead by last name is a wonderful solution. Though, it seems
contextual to last name?

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9 Apr 2009 - 12:13pm
Santiago Bustelo
2010

A single incremental search field coupled with a decent search engine,
allows to search by name, surname, address, and/or phone number (w/o
dashes), in any order, with maximum efficiency.

Proof of concept: http://icograma.com/raf08/

This mockup, in spanish, is part of a 45' presentation we gave in
the 2008 Microsoft Regional Architect Forum ( summarized english
translation available: http://icograma.com/articles/raf2008.en.php
).

The database holds around 5,000 clients and 4,000 movies, what was a
typical scenario for a video rental store in our research. Names and
surnames were taken randomly from public listings.

KLM-GOMS shows that a desired contact can be found as the first or
only result in around 5 seconds.

Case: Looking for "Jorge Gonzalez". "Gonzalez" is one of the most
common surrnames in the database.
We start typing the surname, and get live results sorted by
relevance. [mental preparation: 1.35 secs.]
By typing "gonz" we already found all the "gonzalez". [type
'gonz', 0.8 secs. mental preparation, 1.35 secs]
We type 'space' and start typing first name. [type ' jor',
0.8 secs]
As the query string reaches "gonz jor", we narrowed the search
to just two people named "Jorge Gonzalez".

With a simple relevance algorythm, the first one should be the
one we most probably want.
We spent just 4.30 secs.

--

Santiago Bustelo, Icograma
Buenos Aires, Argentina

//// IxDA BA es el primer grupo local en castellano.
//// Te esperamos! http://groups.google.com/group/ixda-ba

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9 Apr 2009 - 12:53pm
Sarah Kampman
2008

Also, testing search functionality is *not* possible until the very end
of release which naturally limits any actions to be taken based on
results of user testing.

...Just to play devil's advocate, why not? You could create some working
prototypes to test this before development. Prototypes may take a while
to create, but they save quite a bit of expensive rework if the
prototypes highlight problems that require changes to the design.

9 Apr 2009 - 1:30pm
Santiago Bustelo
2010

On 09/04/2009, at 08:59, Vincent wrote:
> Type ahead by last name is a wonderful solution. Though, it seems
> contextual to last name?

In the proof of concept ( http://icograma.com/raf08/ ), clients can be
found by any field(s).

All this queries give [Jorge Gonzalez, phone 4946-2493, address
Viamonte 1509] as the first or only result:
"gonz jor" (partial surname, partial first name)
"jorge gon" (full first name, partial surnam)
"viamonte 1509" (full short address)
"jor 1509" (partial first name, address number)
"49462" (partial phone number)
"gon 4946" (partial surname, partial phone number)
"1509 49" (address number, partial phone number)

In the 5,000 clients database, not only Gonzalez is one of the most
common surnames (51 records), but Viamonte is the most crowded street
(1,329 records). There are 166 phone numbers beginning with "494".
For performance purpouses, the interface only shows first 20 results
by relevance. Not only loading 1000 records is not feasible, but also
it is far more efficient for the user to type 3 more characters to
refine results, that it is to scroll / hunt down the results.

--

Santiago Bustelo, Icograma
Buenos Aires, Argentina

//// IxDA BA es el primer grupo local en castellano.
//// Te esperamos! http://groups.google.com/group/ixda-ba

9 Apr 2009 - 5:19pm
vinwonders
2008

Steve, Joan, Erin, Jim, Josh, Phillip, Petter, Sarah, and Santiago,

Thank you- I stand enlightened and inspired!

Vincent

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12 Apr 2009 - 5:11am
nuritps
2010

A well known phonetic matching algorithm is Soundex, I think it is
built-in in Oracle, it is definitely ok to start with... it is very
important for names, not only people names but also companies, that
people many times fail to spell or has a few variations. Specially if
users come from different language backgrounds.
I also used type-ahead in a similar search (but not only for last
name).

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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