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388Re: [SearchCoP] People search and content search

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  • Lee Romero
    Nov 9, 2010
      Thanks, Lou.

      Am I reading you correctly that your preference is to have a single "box" which shows results that would then (intelligently) show both content and people (perhaps intermingled or perhaps with one in a sidebar or whatever UI metaphor you want to use)?

      I agree - but am wondering if anyone has seen any success with alternatives (or can identify other alternatives).

      As I see it, alternatives would be:
      • Two search boxes persistently available (upside: easy to implement; downside: users use the wrong box inadvertently)
      • Two search boxes with toggle between them (upside: relatively easy to implement; downside: as you say, very likely user does not search in the 'right' place)
      • One box with results intermingled (upside: simple user experience to look for either people or content; downside: technically challenging and feedback I've received is that people don't want their content intermingled with their people)
      • One box with results presented on same page but not intermingled, perhaps via sidebar display or tabbing within the results (upside: keeps people 'separate' from content but still provides single search box; downside: in our case, limited flexibility in the search results display, unfortunately)

      Anyway - thanks again, Lou.

      Any other opinions out there?


      On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Louis Rosenfeld <lou@...> wrote:

      Avoid this intentionally.  To avoid confusion.  Most.  Definitely.

      Granted, there are exceptions.  But the directory/un-directory dichotomy is often a false one created by underlying technologies (i.e., http vs. LDAP) or political issues (IT owns this, marketing owns that) or both.  It's a scourge especially in academic contexts; I guess there was a lot of investment in staff and faculty directories back in the day. 

      In any case, avoid this approach because:
      • It places the cognitive burden of figuring out how the search works to precisely the wrong place:  at initial query entry.  If this dichotomy must be supported, make users choose later, once the scent is stronger and they are encountering an initial set of search results.
      • It's really, really hard to communicate in a handful of characters what a "people" search actually is.  Ditto for the other thing:  searching "web" or "our web site".  In fact, you'll be introducing more confusion--let's say I want to search your site to learn what Professor Smith has written.  Do I do that in the "people" box?  Probably not; I might get his phone number, but nothing by him.
      • If you're using radio buttons, there's a very good chance your default setting will be wrong for a significant portion of searchers.
      There are a bunch of other problems, but hopefully this covers it.  Really, this is a great example of why we should pay much more attention to search results design, especially when it comes to federated search systems.  That's where you can negotiate this dichotomy much more effectively and efficiently.

      OK, will stop my grumping now...


      Louis Rosenfeld :: http://louisrosenfeld.com :: @louisrosenfeld
      Rosenfeld Media :: http://rosenfeldmedia.com :: @rosenfeldmedia

      On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM, Lee Romero <pekadad@...> wrote:

      This seems like a topic I've read about on this list before - if so,
      sorry for the redundancy.

      Anyway - I'm wondering if anyone has any insights to share on how best
      to position persistent availability to a "search" box on your site
      (which searches content) with persistent availability to a "people
      search" box? I know of Jakob Nielsen's writing on this (
      http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030224.html ), but I'm wondering if
      there are other opinions out there?

      Do you provide both types of searches from all your pages (via
      persistent global navigation)? If so, how do you make it clear to
      users which is which?

      Or, do you avoid this intentionally to avoid confusion?

      Any recent writings on this that anyone can share?

      Thanks for your insights!

      Lee Romero

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