24/7 TV news websites: Part 12 - Search III
Or, in the case of Euronews, not looking at them.
I've put together a feature comparison chart of what I saw, but before getting to that, I wanted to look at some general trends I noticed.
Search box placement is nearly uniform
All of the sites put their search box towards the upper-right portion of the page. Although there is no complete over-lap, this diagram illustrates how closely the sites place their search on the page.
Site search doesn't need URLs
When user testing interface design for web search, the URL was an important component of the result set. Users could make an initial judgement on whether they trusted a result or not just from the domain name.
This isn't so important for site search - and in fact of the 7 sites with a search facility, only France 24 displayed the destination URL.
Noticeably, Sky, CNN and the BBC all offer web search as well as site search, and all of them hide the destination URL for site search, but expose it for web search.
Not defaulting to news is odd
Euronews, without a search facility, didn't default to searching anything, but it was noticeable that probably the two largest international brands, the BBC and CNN, were the two sites that didn't default to searching their own news content when you first enter a search term.
Both included links to news stories on their results pages, plus a way to navigate to a 'news only' view, but I must say I find this a very odd user experience decision from both of them. To imagine that someone has navigated to your news site, and yet doesn't want your news when they type terms into you search box seems quite unfathomable to me.
Highlighting search terms
Interestingly, the only sites to highlight search terms in the results set were the three sites publishing English language news when it was not their native tongue - Al Jazeera, France 24 and Russia Today all had this feature. I don't know whether that is just a co-incidence though.
Advanced search is dead
Of all the sites I looked at, only Sky News still retained a bespoke 'Advanced search' form with features for refining search. In this case it looked a little neglected as well, as the primary navigation hadn't been updated with the latest site re-design, and the category selection didn't match the main categories being published on the site. Everybody else, where there were options, restricted themselves to offering users the chance to sort the results either by date or relevancy.
Feature comparison chart
|Homepage search box|
|Story page search box|
|Defaults to searching news*|
|Search terms highlighted|
|Destination URL shown|
|Sort by date / relevance option|
|Search RSS feeds|
|Advanced search interface|
|Message board search|
|*For the purposes of this comparison chart I have listed the features for the BBC and CNN once the user has navigated to their news content search, rather than the default search features.|
Next week I'll be looking at some of the navigational features of the sites I've been reviewing.