Soundex usability results?

2 Dec 2009 - 10:46am
4 years ago
2 replies
527 reads
DrWex
2006

It's "me with another weird question" time...

One of our applications has a very telephone book-like UI. I've
suggested that searching in this application be enhanced to use
Soundex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soundex) so that users will not
have to know if someone in the database is "Alan Brown", "Allan
Brown", "Allen Brown", etc.

The question I'm now trying to figure out is whether soundex should be
used all the time or whether it should only be invoked if there is no
exact match. For example, in our test data set the users "Alan Brown"
and "Allan Brown" both appear - if someone searches for "Alan Brown"
should he get one result or two?

Both answers seem to confuse some subset of our test users, so I'm
wondering if there has been any general research on the topic that
might be relevant.

Best regards,
--Alan (one ell two a)

Comments

2 Dec 2009 - 11:14am
Anonymous

You could display results for the exact match only and provide a link or
some other control to "Find similarly spelled names". Then the initial
search is always for what the user typed, and getting anything additional is
explicitly spelled out for the user to control.

Doug Brown
dougb at finitemonkey.com

On 12/2/09 10:46 AM, "Alan Wexelblat" <awexelblat at gmail.com> wrote:

> The question I'm now trying to figure out is whether soundex should be
> used all the time or whether it should only be invoked if there is no
> exact match. For example, in our test data set the users "Alan Brown"
> and "Allan Brown" both appear - if someone searches for "Alan Brown"
> should he get one result or two?
>
> Both answers seem to confuse some subset of our test users, so I'm
> wondering if there has been any general research on the topic that
> might be relevant.

2 Dec 2009 - 11:22am
William Hudson
2009

Definitely not all the time! I had the pleasure of evaluating the people
search facility at the BBC a couple of years ago when the IT department
had decided to use Soundex all the time. It was a nightmare because it
produced a very large number of extraneous results. (It might work in
very small organisations but could still be problematic.)

Also, bear in mind that Soundex is based on English pronunciations and
so may not work effectively in large multinationals (although there are
modern variants that are more sophisticated - Soundex was originally
patented around 1905!).

Regards,

William Hudson ('H325' in Soundex)
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
World +44-1235-522859
US Toll Free 1-866-SYNTAGM
mailto:william.hudson at syntagm.co.uk
http://www.syntagm.co.uk
skype:williamhudsonskype

Syntagm is a limited company registered in England and Wales (1985).
Registered number: 1895345. Registered office: 10 Oxford Road, Abingdon
OX14 2DS.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Alan Wexelblat
Sent: 02 December 2009 15:47
To: list IXDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Soundex usability results?

It's "me with another weird question" time...

One of our applications has a very telephone book-like UI. I've
suggested that searching in this application be enhanced to use
Soundex ...

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