A day in the life of BBCi Search - part 7

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 27 March 2003

Change of use over time

Part of the information logged by the search system is the location the search originated from. By examining the pattern of search usage over different periods of the day, we are able to build up a picture of how the focus of BBCi users changes during the day.

Not surprisingly, there is a marked increase in activity from 9am, when the working day is underway in the UK, and the peak of search activity overall is around lunchtime. However, there are notable differences in specific areas of the site.

In the educational areas at www.bbc.co.uk/schools and www.bbc.co.uk/learning - activity dips sharply at lunchtime, and then has its peak in the 2pm to 4pm slot of the afternoon. There is then a lull in activity for a couple of hours, and a secondary peak between 6pm and 9pm, when presumably the nations children settle down to researching their homework or doing revision.

In informational areas of the site, like www.bbc.co.uk/health or www.bbc.co.uk/gardening, the peak level of search activity is in the evening, between 7pm and 9pm - with a secondary peak around lunchtime.

For entertainment areas of the site, covering the radio stations and the programme genre areas, the peak use of search is between 4pm and 7pm.

Overall, this gives us a picture of where the focus of our users is at different times of the day. This is for 'educational' types of searches in the early afternoon. By 4pm the attention of BBCi users has switched to the areas of the site devoted to entertaining them. By the evening, the audience seems divided between two - between children looking for educational material, and adults looking for informative material.

This understanding of user behaviour can be used to inform the placement and timing of promotional slots on the website, and on the editorial content of the BBCi homepage, and the genre sub-pages.

The most visible representation of this on the site is the 'popular links' panel on the homepage, which responds to trends within the search terms. The homepage team noticed that "fantasy football" consistently appeared on the homepage around lunchtime on weekdays, and so have experimented with tailoring the homepage content to suit those users at that time of day.

In the final part of this article I will be giving an overview of the conclusions from this article.

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