Jakob Nielsen outlines in his latest alertbox newsletter (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search-skills.html) the inability of users to search effectively.
My colleague Neal Dinoff, Esri Usability Lab Manager, summarized the article and outlined Jakob Nielsen's core findings:
- People (even highly educated people) have remarkably poor search skills.
- Once they head down a keyword path, no matter how fruitless, they seldom change their search strategy
- Users will enter search terms into any open text field with no understanding of whether they are searching the whole site, the World Wide Web, or only a discreet section of the site.
- Users are overconfident in the reliability of results.
- Almost no one uses Advanced Search. When they do, they use it incorrectly.
Neal continues to conclude lessons for our search design:
- Don't assume that advanced search will help your website; you might build such features, but people will use them only in exceptional cases.
- Spend the vast majority of your resources on improving regular search (simple search).
- Design for the way the world is, not the way we wish it were. This means accepting search dominance, and trying to help users with poor research skills.
I believe more implications can be deducted:
- Curate (make sense of) content (!!!):
- Aggregate (most relevant in one location)
- Distill (more simplistic)
- Elevate (identify and describe trends/insights)
- Mashup (create new points of view based on multiple sources)
- Every page is a potential landing page, so help user to:
- Locate themselves (titles)
- Provide context (the bigger picture)
- Find the content/functions they were originally looking for
- Navigate further (well thought-through navigation architecture + good links + meaningful footer links)
- Create pages so that they can be found through:
- Search Engine Optimization (metatags, headings, etc.)
- Write in the language of your users, that’s how they will search