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CHI-WEB  February 1999, Week 2

CHI-WEB February 1999, Week 2

Subject:

search interface consistency

From:

Michael Fry <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Michael Fry <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 10 Feb 1999 11:21:11 -0500

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (59 lines)

I manage a web-based job search process. The search interface is in one
place on the site, but the site's main navigation allows users to get
there from anywhere. The interface allows users to search for jobs by
specifying values for any of half a dozen or so criteria, including job
category, location, keyword, etc.

It's recently been suggested that we give users the ability to search for
jobs from lots of places on the site, including the home page, not just in
the traditional 'search' section. To accomplish that, however, users will
only be able to specify two of the regular six possible search
criteria--job category and location--instead the full six. As you can
imagine, there simply isn't the room on every page to accommodate the full
search interface. The idea, then, is to have a small version of the search
interface available to users everywhere, much like some sites have a small
keyword search field available on every page.

I agree with the proponents of this plan that we'll probably get more
people to conduct searches. Indeed, with an interface on every page
(apologies to Herb Hoover), users will be able to search whenever and
wherever the urge strikes. I like that--I don't want users to have to work
more than necessary to do what we want them to do (search).

On the other hand, I'm concerned that the truncated search interface will
actually reduce the number of quality results that users get.

First--and I can't quantify or justify this--it seems like one thing to
give users a 'simple search' and an 'advanced/power' search; is it
something else altogether to reduce the number of options users have to
formulate an accurate query? The full interface isn't difficult. I don't
*think* we're necessarily saving novice users from an advanced, i.e.
confusing or overwhelming, search process.

Second, it seems likely that a large number of users will come to the site
and use the new, truncated version of the job search interface without,
perhaps, *ever* realizing that a richer, more flexible search interface is
available. Are we undermining our own efforts by encouraging users to
conduct less accurate job searches? After all, it's in my company's best
interest to have users conduct job searches *and* apply to the jobs they
find--that's the business model. Just having users conduct more searches
isn't really all that beneficial to anybody if the results are of a lesser
quality and users leave the site thinking the search function isn't very
useful.

Finally, I wonder if it better serves all parties if we strive to provide
users with a consistent searching experience, not one that might appear
different in different places. Is there any validity to my feeling that
it's probably better if users have a single, consistent concept of what it
means to search for jobs on our site rather than multiple, *perhaps*
competing concepts? Indeed, part of what makes our search interface useful
is that it *does* give users options and tools for specifying the jobs
they want to see. If many of our users stop seeing these options, I can't
help but wonder if we'll just be creating a population of users who don't
see our service as different or more useful than that of our competitors.

Anybody have any thoughts? Am I overthinking this?!

Thank you.
mf

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