The pained voices of customers who are desperately looking for help
I was pointed in the direction of CHI 2003 - Best Practices and Future Visions for Search UIs: A Workshop , which is a fantastic set of documents. I am spending much of my "down-time" working my way through them, and no doubt will come back to some of them.
Initially the one that really struck me was Joel Angiolillo's work on " Search log analysis as a usability engineering tool " [word doc 474kb] - and not just because it was top of the list. The topic so clearly chimed with the talk I gave earlier this evening at the UK UPA meet-up.
I was particularly drawn to two quotes. One touched on the 'magic' that uses perceive to be behind search, which they expect to be able to read their minds:
We have found in the lab that users expect search engines to be at least as smart as a store clerk. If they enter the search string "pay bill" and are returned a page about "Bill Jones who found that centrex service pays off..." they either become irritated or simply think that the search engine is broken.
The second was a quote that I think should send chills down the spine of anyone running a web service that claims to care about their users and who thinks technology can solve search:
Spending hours pouring over thousands of search queries, one can hear the pained voices of customers who are desperately looking for help. The...search engine, with its simple word spotting routines, can not come close to providing the expert support that a good clerk or call center representative can.