The most common feature on webpages is the search box. It is supposed to help readers find information, products, services; in other words, help the reader or your cash flow.
How effective is text searching? How often will your reader use the same word as your content authors for some object, product, service? Survey says: 10 to 20%!*
So the next time you insert a search box on a webpage, you or your client may be missing 80 to 90% of the potential readers or customers. Ouch!
Unlike the imaginary world of universal and unique identifiers, the odds of users choosing the same words has been established by actual research.
The data sets were:
- verbs used to describe text-editing operations
- descriptions of common objects, similar to PASSWORD ™ game
- superordinate category names for swap-and-sale listings
- main-course cooking recipes
There are a number of interesting aspects to the study that I will cover in future posts but the article offers the following assessment of text searching:
We found that random pairs of people use the same word for an object only 10 to 20 percent of the time.
This research is relevant to all information retrieval systems. Online stores, library catalogs, whether you are searching simple text, RDF or even topic maps. Ask yourself or your users: Is a 10% success rate really enough?
(There ways to improve that 10% score. More on those to follow.)
*Furnas, G. W., Landauer, T. K., Gomez, L. M., Dumais, S. T., (1983) “Statistical semantics: Analysis of the potential performance of keyword information access systems.” Bell System Technical Journal, 62, 1753-1806. Reprinted in: Thomas, J.C., and Schneider, M.L, eds. (1984) Human Factors in Computer Systems. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corp., 187-242.