Search Interface introduction


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


"People don't understand their own behaviors, and they don't really understand much about search or the web, so they will have to learn. It could take generations" (Spink cited in Wodtke 2006).

The act of searching on the internet is a non-intuitive process. Most people do not put much thought into the selection of search terms, how a search engine works, or how to improve their results through advanced search features offered by the system.

long tail

This graph, dubbed the "long tail," depicts internet searching: the majority of web searches are concerned with only a small portion of the overall content of the world wide web. The rest of the graph (the long tail) represents the vast, rarely searched area of the web. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect all computer users and information seekers to develop expert search skills; however, by applying effective, user-centered principles to the design of search interfaces the difficulties associated with searching can be alleviated and users can be guided towards advanced search techniques without their even realizing it.

The long tail has two major consequences for the design of information retrieval (IR) systems: firstly, if 90% of searchers are concerned with 10% of the web's content, IR system interface design should focus on helping users search that 10% more efficiently. Secondly, designers should consider how to introduce searchers to the 90% of the web which they are unaware of when relevant.

A major problem in the field of search interface development is the lack of attention paid to the design of the interface and how users relate to this. Amanda Spink writes that "a key problem for practitioners is the lack of computer people trained in information and web retrieval, web design, and web usability.There is a lack of [...] industry consultants who really understand search. Search is much harder than most people think, and the design of effective search tools is even harder" (2006).

This website discusses interface design, particularly as it pertains to information retrieval (IR); the evolution of electronic search interfaces, Human Computer Interface (HCI), users needs and search behaviours, interface design for IR systems, and future considerations for the burgeoning field of search interface designs are some of the topics explored. This is a vast topic therefore, this website is intended as an introduction.

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Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009