Dual search boxes

20 Feb 2006 - 7:07am
8 years ago
18 replies
801 reads
jbellis
2005

My state's web site

http://www.state.pa.us/

has two search boxes, one for the conventional search within the site, and another for their special keywords. For instance, if you enter DMV in the special keywords box, it goes right to Department of Motor Vehicles.

Shouldn't these just be one "Search" box? If special keywords are always "secrets" that you are explicitly "trained on" such as from your snail mail paper renewal form, why not just tell people to enter them in the Search box?

Still searching for the one UI issue that is not answered by "It depends...",

www.jackBellis.com, www.UsabilityInstitute.com

Comments

20 Feb 2006 - 10:12am
Terrence Wood
2006

jackbellis.com:
> Shouldn't these just be one "Search" box?
Yes.

> If special keywords are always "secrets" that you are explicitly
> "trained on" such as from your snail mail paper renewal form, why not
> just tell people to enter them in the Search box?
Yes.

kind regards
Terrence Wood.

20 Feb 2006 - 11:15am
Rob Nero
2005

We have a single search box for our intranet. But our search results
displays the normal indexing results, and a special keyword result too
(called "Quick Links").

So in essence it is like combining both of the boxes on your PA site.
When the query matches "special keywords" it can show those hits on the
same page as a normal indexing result set.

Rob

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
jackbellis.com
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 7:08 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Dual search boxes

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

My state's web site

http://www.state.pa.us/

has two search boxes, one for the conventional search within the site,
and another for their special keywords. For instance, if you enter DMV
in the special keywords box, it goes right to Department of Motor
Vehicles.

Shouldn't these just be one "Search" box? If special keywords are always
"secrets" that you are explicitly "trained on" such as from your snail
mail paper renewal form, why not just tell people to enter them in the
Search box?

Still searching for the one UI issue that is not answered by "It
depends...",

www.jackBellis.com, www.UsabilityInstitute.com
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20 Feb 2006 - 11:34am
AlokJain
2006

>> Shouldn't these just be one "Search" box? If special keywords are always
"secrets" that
>> you are explicitly "trained on" such as from your snail mail paper
renewal form, why not
>> just tell people to enter them in the Search box?

Jack,

The current implementation on http://www.state.pa.us/ is confusing. I don't
think users would understand the difference between the two. Also there is
no way to switch between the two from results.

And last directly launch DMV site when search DMV in my view not a good
model, it mixes navigation and looking for information models. You can use
other interaction models (FURLs, shortcuts, etc) to do this.

Coming back to two search boxes:
While in most cases I would second the thought of having a single search box
and allow filtering on results page, in certain cases I have found the use
of two search boxes good.

In one of solutions we have provided to a very large organization (over
20,000 employees worldwide) we found using two search boxes (People and
whole Intranet) to be very effective. We are using this only on homepage (as
that is the browser "home" and most users in this client's context search
for people from homepage). The inside pages have a single box with a
dropdown that allows users to select All Intranet and People.

What we are also driving towards is an ability to move across all intranet
and people search results in the Search Results page using tabs/filtering.

So net net we keep whole search system as one, but allow a shortcut just on
homepage through two boxes. To further differentiate these two search boxes,
we have kept the size of the search boxes different (this is not user tested
yet).

Hope this helps.

Alok Jain
Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
http://www.satyam.com

20 Feb 2006 - 3:37pm
Stacy Surla
2003

Our intranet started with separate search boxes for site search,
keyword search, and phonebook search. Furthermore, some divisions host
project intranets on their own servers and add their "local" search to
the mix of "corporate" searches. This is clearly madness, but unifying
even two of these in a single search box has been tricky to finesse.

On an intranet you can presumably train your users. We're currently
going with a pulldown menu for the different search types (site,
keyword, phonebook, division site). The site search now also indexes
the keyword database, so if a general search term is also a keyword,
the link to the the keyworded site is promoted and highlighted at the
top of the results. There are a couple of other neat ways that keyword
hits and misses are presented as options to further browse on the
results page.

However, the result of a keyword "search" is supposed to be the site
itself, not a list of results. Plus dropdown options are hidden, so
probably remain unexpected and unexplored for most users. Crafting the
user experience around multiple search options is still problematic.
Not to mention getting those backends tied together.

~Stacy

Stacy Surla
Information Architect, MITRE Corp.

20 Feb 2006 - 3:21pm
Ted Sienknecht
2006

Jack,

An example of another government site that faced this issue is IRS.gov.
They recently consolidated their keyword and basic site search boxes. I
understand IRS made this change due to usability testing and user
feedback; both demonstrated users were being confused by multiple
search boxes. I think the principle of putting the burden on the system
vs. the user is relevant (i.e., make the system process queries
according to type rather than force the user to wonder which search box
they use for what, when). It's not technically difficult to do this,
either, with most modern search engines (some even offer it as a
built-in feature). Most would agree the basic/advanced search
differentiation is still useful, though.

I would suggest that another reason for sites to move away from a
separate "keywords" feature/search box is that there are significant
cognitive and logistical challenges to their effective use. AOL spent
millions of dollars advertising its (now deprecating?) keywords just to
get a so-so adoption rate. Compare your site's keyword marketing spend
against theirs and figure out what likely reach/adoption rate you'll
likely see. Then factor in the issues (well-documented in the HCI,
cognitive psych, and information seeking literature) that people have
with recalling/using specialized terminology (i.e., keywords, no matter
how "simple") compared to their own language, and you have a very
strong argument for abandoning keywords altogether. Failing that, at
least provide a single interface that returns both sets of results
(e.g., Recommended/keyword-based and regular search results). Thoughts?

Regards,
Ted Sienknecht

20 Feb 2006 - 6:12pm
jbellis
2005

----- Original Message -----
From: "Surla, Stacy M." <ssurla at mitre.org>
>but unifying
> even two of these in a single search box has been tricky to finesse.

Stacy, do you mean tricky technically? (If so you want to post that
challenge to a system architecture list, right, not a site that focuses on
the end user? Just kidding. It's a joke!)
>
> However, the result of a keyword "search" is supposed to be the site
> itself, not a list of results.

I don't understand what you mean. Can you explain? (By the way, I believe
the significance of "keyword" has been lost in the last few years. To me it
should imply a word that was indexed by a sentient being (perhaps some day
an algorithm), in contrast to a full-text index, which is often mislabeled
"keyword search.")

Thanks, Jack

20 Feb 2006 - 6:42pm
jbellis
2005

Alok,
Terrence had me hopeful that the answer was unequivocal, but you're saying
"it depends."

I gotta admit that the huge company intranet example of searching for people
is a viable case.

Hmmmm. If I open the 20,000-person intranet.satyam.com and type Jain into
the single search box (imagine it's 5 years from now), shouldn't it show me
your name at or near the top of the list? And shouldn't it escalate your
"internal home" page over the articles you've written (tier 2)... and over
pages where your name is merely referenced (tier 3)? I guess I'm accepting
that with today's brute-force, dumb results algorithms, we have no choice
but to have a separate Person search box under your conditions, but it's the
results that are the problem, not the searching.

I suppose the issue will be "noise" as in, if one types in "Gates" should it
escalate employee references over industry topics. I think by virtue of its
being your intranet, it should. In other words, Bill Gates would be of
decidedly lower scope on your intranet even if mentioned in several pages...
even if he has a dedicated page on your intranet, in which case it would
justifiably be promoted.

Regards, Jack

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alok Jain" <alok.ajain1 at gmail.com>
To: <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 12:34 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Dual search boxes

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]
>
> >> Shouldn't these just be one "Search" box? If special keywords are
always
> "secrets" that
> >> you are explicitly "trained on" such as from your snail mail paper
> renewal form, why not
> >> just tell people to enter them in the Search box?
>
> Jack,
>
> The current implementation on http://www.state.pa.us/ is confusing. I
don't
> think users would understand the difference between the two. Also there is
> no way to switch between the two from results.
>
> And last directly launch DMV site when search DMV in my view not a good
> model, it mixes navigation and looking for information models. You can use
> other interaction models (FURLs, shortcuts, etc) to do this.
>
> Coming back to two search boxes:
> While in most cases I would second the thought of having a single search
box
> and allow filtering on results page, in certain cases I have found the use
> of two search boxes good.
>
> In one of solutions we have provided to a very large organization (over
> 20,000 employees worldwide) we found using two search boxes (People and
> whole Intranet) to be very effective. We are using this only on homepage
(as
> that is the browser "home" and most users in this client's context search
> for people from homepage). The inside pages have a single box with a
> dropdown that allows users to select All Intranet and People.
>
> What we are also driving towards is an ability to move across all intranet
> and people search results in the Search Results page using tabs/filtering.
>
> So net net we keep whole search system as one, but allow a shortcut just
on
> homepage through two boxes. To further differentiate these two search
boxes,
> we have kept the size of the search boxes different (this is not user
tested
> yet).
>
> Hope this helps.
>
> Alok Jain
> Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
> http://www.satyam.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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>

20 Feb 2006 - 7:09pm
Terrence Wood
2006

jackbellis:

> Alok,
> Terrence had me hopeful that the answer was unequivocal, but you're
> saying
> "it depends."

Note the method described by alok is untested.

The expectation of a search box is that it will return a full text
search for the words entered. If you need to scope the search use a
radio or checkbox to limit the search as required instead of two text
inputs, two labels, two buttons.

kind regards
Terrence Wood.

20 Feb 2006 - 8:14pm
AlokJain
2006

>>Terrence had me hopeful that the answer was unequivocal, but you're saying
>>"it depends."

I think "it depends" always remains. I attended Louis Rosenfeld's EIA
seminar sometime back and and someone shared that in specialized medical
context having two search boxes - a generic search and a specialized one (to
look for medicines) only was more successful than a single box when tested.
Still larger number of tests I have run, researchers I have talked to, tell
a single box is better, but special requirements could call for a different
model.

>> shouldn't it show me your name at or near the top of the list? And
shouldn't it escalate your
>> "internal home" page over the articles you've written (tier 2)... and
over
>> pages where your name is merely referenced (tier 3)?

In this example, yes it is possible to build system to respond in such
manner as you have described, but the underlying problem at a wider scale is
user context, we have no way of knowing that. What if I search for a term
which appears in an article written by someone, also in my resume, also in a
project document how do we understand relevance of one source above the
other.

This is why I suggest handling this at results level as a filtering model. I
find Forrester.com model very effective (works for me, will work for you? it
depends :-) . Also try Gartner.com (as these are comparable organizations)

Best Regards
Alok Jain
Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
http://www.satyam.com

20 Feb 2006 - 9:33pm
James Melzer
2004

Stacy,

I agree with Ted - put the burden on the server and only provide a
single simple search box. This leaves you with a very complex set of
federated results to deal with, but at least then you can control the
user's expectations and really frame their understanding of the
display. I would use different displays for each kind of result - make
then visually distinct so users can distinguish easily by layout and
presentation. Maybe something like this: (?)

RESULTS PAGE
banner - yellow pages listings
banner - best bets and taxonomy matches
main content - local intranet organic results
main content - corporate intranet organic results

~ James

--
James Melzer
http://www.jamesmelzer.com
http://del.icio.us/jamesmelzer

On 2/20/06, Sienknecht, Ted <teds at mitre.org> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Jack,
>
> An example of another government site that faced this issue is IRS.gov.
> They recently consolidated their keyword and basic site search boxes. I
> understand IRS made this change due to usability testing and user
> feedback; both demonstrated users were being confused by multiple
> search boxes. I think the principle of putting the burden on the system
> vs. the user is relevant (i.e., make the system process queries
> according to type rather than force the user to wonder which search box
> they use for what, when). It's not technically difficult to do this,
> either, with most modern search engines (some even offer it as a
> built-in feature). Most would agree the basic/advanced search
> differentiation is still useful, though.
>
> I would suggest that another reason for sites to move away from a
> separate "keywords" feature/search box is that there are significant
> cognitive and logistical challenges to their effective use. AOL spent
> millions of dollars advertising its (now deprecating?) keywords just to
> get a so-so adoption rate. Compare your site's keyword marketing spend
> against theirs and figure out what likely reach/adoption rate you'll
> likely see. Then factor in the issues (well-documented in the HCI,
> cognitive psych, and information seeking literature) that people have
> with recalling/using specialized terminology (i.e., keywords, no matter
> how "simple") compared to their own language, and you have a very
> strong argument for abandoning keywords altogether. Failing that, at
> least provide a single interface that returns both sets of results
> (e.g., Recommended/keyword-based and regular search results). Thoughts?
>
> Regards,
> Ted Sienknecht
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

20 Feb 2006 - 9:41pm
Barbara Ballard
2005

>
> I gotta admit that the huge company intranet example of searching
> for people
> is a viable case.
>
> Hmmmm. If I open the 20,000-person intranet.satyam.com and type
> Jain into
> the single search box (imagine it's 5 years from now), shouldn't it
> show me
> your name at or near the top of the list? And shouldn't it escalate
> your
> "internal home" page over the articles you've written (tier 2)...
> and over
> pages where your name is merely referenced (tier 3)? I guess I'm
> accepting
> that with today's brute-force, dumb results algorithms, we have no
> choice
> but to have a separate Person search box under your conditions, but
> it's the
> results that are the problem, not the searching.

I fail to understand the problem, exactly. What is wrong with doing
two searches: People and Intranet?

Intranet results could be the main body of the results page, and
people results could be a narrow column on the right. It might look
vaguely like A9: http://a9.com

---
Barbara Ballard 1-785-838-3003
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com

20 Feb 2006 - 11:57pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

In the original example of PA state site (http://www.state.pa.us/), the
first "PA Keyword" box is actually used for navigation: type "DMV" and
you'll get to DMV portal. The second box is for the usual text search.

More elegant combination of these two functionalities (keyword navigation +
keyword search) can be found at Wikipedia site: juxtaposition of "Go" and
"Search" buttons is self-explanatory. Google's "I'm feeling lucky" is
analogous to "Go", but the text of the button is boundary object, makes me
go: "Huh" (Steve Krug) instead of lucky, since it brings very
different associations for me personally.

It is OK to use two search boxes as long as different context of search is
crystal clear (having only two different labels or even distinct areas is
not clear enough).

As often Google has elegant solution with their two separate searches for
mail and for contacts in gmail (screen capture is attached). The context of
contacts search is made obvious by at least four different clues.

As a side note to where Google went slightly askew: I would rather put two
radio buttons to distinguish Search Mail and Search Web + Search button
(gmail uses two different buttons for that).
--
Oleh Kovalchuke

On 2/20/06, Alok Jain <alok.ajain1 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I think "it depends" always remains. I attended Louis Rosenfeld's EIA
> seminar sometime back and and someone shared that in specialized medical
> context having two search boxes - a generic search and a specialized one
(to
> look for medicines) only was more successful than a single box when
tested.
> Still larger number of tests I have run, researchers I have talked to,
tell
> a single box is better, but special requirements could call for a
different
> model.
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21 Feb 2006 - 6:43am
jbellis
2005

Barbara, my replies below. Thanks, Jack
----- Original Message -----
From: "Barbara Ballard" <barbara at littlespringsdesign.com>
> I fail to understand the problem, exactly. What is wrong with doing two
> searches: People and Intranet?

I suppose I never explained my presumption that two search boxes is
undesirable. It's because,
1) In the best words for the situation, "[SK] it makes me think."
2) The very nature of Search is that the user doesn't know where something
is or what the logic of the site is.
3) In the case of the PA site, visitors who haven't received paper
instructions have no idea what's going on.
4) From another vantage point, fewer design elements strikes me as better,
barring compelling arguments to the contrary.
5) The people are the intranet.

************* Results??? ***************
I feel that the discussion has suggested that separate search boxes can be
justified when the affinity of some special result set is nearly perfect,
and the set can be instantly and unmistakably recognized by a label (People,
Medicines). In such a case the extra design element has more benefit than
cost, especially considering the "sales" benefit of informing the user that
a special search will yield efficient results (now that we've unfortunately
trained users that basic Search yields painful results).

I feel the PA state site did not pass this test and that, long-term, people
will not spend time on public pages with poorly filtered results and will
expect to use a single search box for even special sets, and have the
results escalate the set. Some years later intranets will catch up.
*************************************

> Intranet results could be the main body of the results page, and people
> results could be a narrow column on the right. It might look vaguely
> like A9: http://a9.com

Doesn't this example support my contention that the dilemma is one of
results display, and should't be solved by asking the user to figure out in
which index to search?

Thanks, Jack

21 Feb 2006 - 6:08am
jbellis
2005

Alok,
I agree, it probably does depend on the circumstances and we are left only
with a discussion about the exact circumstances that truly require it,
versus its current overuse due to historical problems.
Thanks,
www.jackBellis.com, www.UsabilityInstitute.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Alok Jain" <alok.ajain1 at gmail.com>
> I think "it depends" always remains. I attended Louis Rosenfeld's EIA
> seminar sometime back and and someone shared that in specialized medical
> context having two search boxes - a generic search and a specialized one
> (to
>

21 Feb 2006 - 9:21am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On Feb 21, 2006, at 6:43 AM, jackbellis.com wrote:

> From: "Barbara Ballard" <barbara at littlespringsdesign.com>
>> I fail to understand the problem, exactly. What is wrong with
>> doing two
>> searches: People and Intranet?
>
> I suppose I never explained my presumption that two search boxes is
> undesirable. It's because,

Ah, I misspoke (something about getting an agitated client call at my
bedtime) - one box, one text entry, two lists of search results.

21 Feb 2006 - 2:59pm
Stacy Surla
2003

Jack,

I meant that if you type your keyword into a keyword text box and hit
"go" you expect the next page to be the target page. (e.g. keyword "HR"
leads right to "HR Home.") However, if you type a search term into a
search box and hit "go," you expect a page of hit results. (e.g.
search term "HR" leads to a page of 205 links to pages with HR on them,
and (in our case) the "HR Home" link highlighted right at the top.)

~Stacy

From: "jackbellis" <jackbellis at hotmail.com>

----- Original Message -----
From: "Surla, Stacy M." <ssurla at mitre.org>
> However, the result of a keyword "search" is supposed to be the site
> itself, not a list of results.

I don't understand what you mean. Can you explain?

21 Feb 2006 - 3:04pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Another, problem with "I am feeling lucky" button is that it puts the blame
squarely on the user: if the outcome is wrong, it's user's bad luck,
punishment for the arrogant self-confident "stupidity".

Well, me having bad luck working with patronizing Google is not an attitude
I would like to experience from a forthcoming search engine.
--
Oleh Kovalchuke

PS I guess I got all emotional about Google's personality.

On 2/20/06, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
> More elegant combination of these two functionalities (keyword
> navigation + keyword search) can be found at Wikipedia site: juxtaposition
> of "Go" and "Search" buttons is self-explanatory. Google's "I'm feeling
> lucky" is analogous to "Go", but the text of the button is boundary object,
> makes me go: "Huh" (Steve Krug) instead of lucky, since it brings very
> different associations for me personally.
>
>
>

22 Feb 2006 - 6:05pm
Lada Gorlenko
2004

BB> I fail to understand the problem, exactly. What is wrong with doing
BB> two searches: People and Intranet?

In our company, a search portlet contains two search boxes, one for
Staff Directory and one for "Other searches".

Staff Directory search has additional primary "search by" filters:
entire profile, name, job responsibilities, etc.

Other Searches box has additional primary "search where" filters:
Intranet, discussion forums, news articles, etc.

Each box is accompanied by an Advanced Search option that takes you to
a page with secondary filters.

Personally, I find separate Staff Directory search extremely useful.
Each employee's record contains circa 50+ fields supported by links
and files. All these are grouped under 6 tabs: Job info, Experience,
Projects, etc. Each Directory search result contains two parts:
a) a header with a person's picture and summary job info and
b) a snippet of the profile with the search phrase.
If the search phrase is found in more than one profile, you can
further filter profiles by selecting relevant from the results and
adding them to any of the four "action baskets": e-mail, chat, etc.

You cannot possibly display that level of detail alongside "main body"
of search results in a narrow column.

The Intranet has made into top ten Intranets of 2005, with particular
praise of the Staff Directory. In a couple of years, the Directory has
indeed changed the way we find each other and collaborate within the
company. If a separate search box has a price tag attached to it, it
is really a negative one.

Lada

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