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"I'm Feeling Lucky" - Building Great Search Experiences for Today's Users (#IAC19)

Dan Newman
March 17, 2019

"I'm Feeling Lucky" - Building Great Search Experiences for Today's Users (#IAC19)

(As presented at the 2019 Information Architecture Conference in Orlando, FL. A written version of this talk is available at http://bit.ly/npr-search)

Google has become synonymous with search, and voice platforms like Alexa are changing expectations from lists of potential results to a single "right" answer. In the face of well-performing, well-funded competitors like these, it might be tempting to throw in the towel entirely and assume that building your own site search or app search are no longer needed. However, in truth, search has never been more important to driving great user experiences than it is today.

To start, we'll look through some examples of content and navigational search done well and talk about why they work—for instance, Netflix responding to searches for films they don't currently have available for streaming with automated suggestions of similar films. We'll also look at some missed opportunities—for example, Washington Post not returning any relevant results for a search on "subscription" or "home delivery", or Wolfram|Alpha returning images of a moose when the user searches for pictures of a deer (because, obviously, a moose is part of the deer family!). We'll next discuss the changing audience expectations that users bring with them when they open search on your website or app—and what you can do to meet and exceed those expectations. Finally, we'll take a look into the crystal ball to see what today's technology developments (Voice! AR/VR! Machine Learning!) might hold for the future of homegrown search applications.

Dan Newman

March 17, 2019
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  1. “I’m Feeling Lucky”

    Building Great Search
    Experiences for Today’s Users
    Dan Newman
    Director of Product Design, NPR
    @creativenewman
    Allison Shelley/NPR

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  2. @creativenewman #IAC19

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  3. @creativenewman #IAC19
    From the archives:
    Talk of the Nation
    July 16, 1999
    Allison Shelley/NPR

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  4. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Think about the last time you

    searched for something online...

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  5. @creativenewman #IAC19

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    The specifics may change,

    but core user needs are

    remarkably consistent.

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    “Search lets users control their own
    destiny and assert independence
    from websites' attempt to direct how
    they use the web.
    Search is also users' escape hatch
    when they are stuck in navigation.”

    -Jakob Nielsen, May 2001
    bit.ly/nngsearch
    Nielsen Norman Group

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  8. @creativenewman #IAC19
    ● Search helps when you have too
    much information to browse
    ● Search helps fragmented sites
    ● Search is a learning tool
    ● Search should be there because

    users expect it to be there
    ● Search can tame dynamism

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    “As the choice of first resort for many
    users and tasks, search is a defining
    element of the user experience…
    Unfortunately, it’s also the source of
    endless frustration. Search is the worst
    usability problem on the Web.”

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  10. @creativenewman #IAC19

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    PART ONE:
    Eight Considerations for

    Modern Search Experiences

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    1
    Modern search attempts to

    provide answers, not choices.

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  13. @creativenewman #IAC19

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    GOOGLE
    NEWS
    YOUTUBE
    KNOWLEDGE
    GRAPH

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    2
    Modern search is

    implicit in the experience.

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    3
    Modern search is

    contextually-aware.

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    4
    Modern search handles

    divergent use cases.

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    5
    Modern search is built on

    high-quality metadata.

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    (…metadata that is

    meaningful to your users.)

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    “A Taxonomist, a Software Engineer, and a UX Researcher Walk

    Into a Bar: Bridging AI and User Experience Methods at Etsy“
    Gio Kincade, Jenny Benevento, & Jill Fruchter, IA Summit 2017
    bit.ly/etsyias17

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  36. @creativenewman #IAC19
    “A Taxonomist, a Software Engineer, and a UX Researcher Walk

    Into a Bar: Bridging AI and User Experience Methods at Etsy“
    Gio Kincade, Jenny Benevento, & Jill Fruchter, IA Summit 2017
    bit.ly/etsyias17

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    6
    Modern search

    guides users to success.

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  41. @creativenewman #IAC19
    (“What can I ask?”)

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    7
    Modern search adapts

    to all form factors.

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  49. @creativenewman #IAC19
    “Think with Google: In-App Search“
    bit.ly/google-in-app

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    Andres Urena/Unsplash

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    8
    Modern search involves

    human curation.

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  55. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Current Behavior

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  56. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Serial Host Sarah Koenig Says
    She Set Out To Report, Not…
    fresh air
    Dec 23, 2014 45 min 21 sec
    Wait
    Show/Podcast Title
    Food
    General Topic/Series
    Obama
    Keywords (organic search)
    Ari
    People
    Podcast
    ‘Podcast’
    Egypt’s Citizens Still Wait ‘To
    Breathe Deep The Air Of…
    weekend edition saturday
    Saturday 2 min 47 sec
    Waiting For A Break: Obama
    On ‘Strategic Patience’ In…
    morning edition
    From Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
    Best of 2014 Part Two
    Saturday 49 min 30 sec
    Best of 2014 Part One
    Dec 27, 2014 49 min 30 sec
    Jenny Slate
    Dec 20, 2014 49 min 44 sec
    More about this show
    Beyond Free Lunch: Schools
    Open Food Pantries For Hungry
    all things considered
    Stories About Food
    More from this topic
    Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
    Best of 2014 Part Two
    Saturday 49 min 30 sec
    Best of 2014 Part One
    Dec 27, 2014 49 min 30 sec
    Jenny Slate
    Dec 20, 2014 49 min 44 sec
    Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is NPR's
    weekly hour-long quiz program.
    Each week on the radio you can
    test your knowledge against some
    of the best and brightest in the
    news and entertainment world while
    figuring out what's real news and
    what's made up.
    recent episodes:
    Sir Patrick Stewart
    Dec 13, 2014 49 min 46 sec
    Dan Barber: Can Organic
    Farming Make Perfect Fish?
    ted radio hour
    Today, 8:51 AM 9 min 44 sec
    On His 80th Birthday, Shake
    It Like Elvis With A Milkshake
    the salt
    Yesterday 2 min 41 sec
    How Anglers Are Learning To
    Save Fish That Get ‘The Bends’
    the salt
    Tuesday 4 min 28 sec
    Stories about Food
    Dan Barber: Can Organic
    Farming Make Perfect Fish?
    ted radio hour
    Today, 8:51 AM 9 min 44 sec
    On His 80th Birthday, Shake It
    Like Elvis With A Milkshake
    the salt
    Yesterday 2 min 41 sec
    How Anglers Are Learning To
    Save Fish That Get ‘The Bends’
    the salt
    Tuesday 4 min 28 sec
    A Cure For The Common
    Hangover, Found On The Stove
    found recipes
    Dec 21, 2014 2 min 31 sec
    For normal organic results (like those above):
    • Use ‘best match’ results from GSA, but move ALL
    results from the past 24 hours to the top (as GSA
    doesn’t alway appropriately position new stories due to
    lack of page rank).
    • Exclude any duplicate results that appear in a featured
    pod (like show title pod or topic pods at left).
    • Use infinite scroll to continue loading more as the user
    scrolls.
    Obama In Tennessee To Promote
    Free Community College
    morning edition
    Today, 3:25 AM 3 min 20 sec
    A ‘Sizable Decrease’ In Those
    Passing the GED
    morning edition
    Today, 3:26 AM 3 min 48 sec
    Obama, GOP To Face Off Over
    Keystone XL Pipeline
    morning edition
    Yesterday 5 min 1 sec
    Compressional Republicans Take
    Another Swing At Obamacare
    morning edition
    Yesterday 3 min 46 sec
    A London Tube Dream Ride, In
    The Driver’s Cab
    weekend edition sunday
    Stories By Ari Shapiro
    More by Ari
    The Theater Company Is 1927;
    The Technology Is Cutting Edge
    parallels
    Jan 5, 2015 3 min 31 sec
    High-Tech Tools Help Irish Dairy
    Farmers Produce More Milk
    business
    Jan 2, 2015 3 min 46 sec
    London’s Morning Gloryville
    Starts Sunrise Rave Trend
    europe
    Jan 1, 2014 3 min 49 sec
    News Magazine Searches
    Morning Edition
    Ari Shapiro
    Ari Shapiro is an NPR international
    correspondent based in London. An
    award-winning journalist, his
    reporting covers a wide range of
    topics and can be heard on all of
    NPR's national news programs,
    including Morning Edition and All
    Things Considered. More…
    recent stories:
    The Theater Company Is 1927; The
    Technology Is Cutting Edge
    parallels
    Jan 5, 2015 3 min 31 sec
    High-Tech Tools Help Irish Dairy
    Farmers Produce More Milk
    business
    Jan 2, 2015 3 min 46 sec
    London’s Morning Gloryville
    Starts Sunrise Rave Trend
    europe
    Jan 1, 2014 3 min 49 sec
    Morning Edition
    Boko Haram Uses Girls As
    Suicide Bombers, Reports Say
    Today, 4:59 AM 2 min 52 sec
    Every weekday for over three
    decades, Morning Edition has taken
    listeners around the country and
    the world with multi-faceted stories
    and commentaries that inform,
    challenge and occasionally amuse.
    Morning Edition is the most
    listened-to news radio program in
    the country.
    today’s stories:
    Terror Attacks Stun France,
    Millions Turn Out For Sunday
    Today, 4:59 AM 3 min 8 sec
    In Haiti, Politics And An
    Earthquake Anniversary Collide
    Today, 4:59 AM 4 min 5 sec
    From Morning Edition
    More about this show
    Boko Haram Uses Girls As
    Suicide Bombers, Reports Say
    Today, 4:59 AM 2 min 52 sec
    Terror Attacks Stun France,
    Millions Turn Out For Sunday
    Today, 4:59 AM 3 min 8 sec
    In Haiti, Politics And An
    Earthquake Anniversary Collide
    Today, 4:59 AM 4 min 5 sec
    So you know…
    We always include stories from Morning
    Edition as part of your NPR One flow.
    Just hit play to get the day’s news,
    tailored for you.
    Current Behavior
    So you know…
    We always include podcasts that we
    think you’ll like as part of your NPR One
    flow. You can also search for podcasts
    by title, or browse recommended
    episodes in ‘Suggestions’
    Blurbs (for people, podcasts, and shows) will need to
    be truncated for display in the app, with the ability to
    reveal all (just like the updated bio pages on NPR.org).
    To discuss: what actions should be available at a show level?
    How to reveal actions at a story level in list views?
    Bored … And Brilliant? A
    Challenge To Disconnect
    all tech considered
    Yesterday 5 min 47 sec
    Podcasts Rise In Popularity,
    Funded By Advertisers
    digital life
    Nov 30, 2014 4 min 10 sec
    Consider disabling button user has already hear
    the most recent newscast, and replace text wit
    ‘You’ve already heard the most recent newscast
    Organic results should always follow custom pods, even in
    cases where we suspect that most users aren’t looking for the
    organic results. Therefore, we don’t break the experience for
    those who truly want news about a given topic.
    Message should be tappable directly to Suggestions view

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  57. @creativenewman #IAC19
    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    6
    7
    8
    Modern search…
    … is implicit in the
    experience.
    … attempts to provide
    answers, not choices.
    … is contextually-aware.
    … handles divergent

    use cases.
    … guides users to

    success.
    … is built on high-

    quality metadata.
    … adapts to all

    form factors.
    … involves

    human curation.

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  58. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Fundamentally, modern search
    requires you to actually care

    about your users.

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  59. @creativenewman #IAC19
    (don’t be like Ron)

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    PART TWO:
    Building a Modern Search
    Experience at NPR

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  61. @creativenewman #IAC19

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    User expectations have changed.
    We need to change with them.

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    And this is just the beginning.

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    How do you know

    if it’s working?

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    Does it pass the sniff test?

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    How’s it going now?

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    PART THREE:
    What Comes Next?

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    Machine Learning:

    It’s not coming to save us
    Allison Shelley/NPR

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    Voice UI:
    Answers instead of choices
    Eric Lee/NPR

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    No facets, no filters,

    limited refinements.

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  87. @creativenewman #IAC19
    What choices do we really

    need our user to make?

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  88. @creativenewman #IAC19
    A high premium on precision,

    and low tolerance for weak results.

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    AR/VR:
    Inputless querying
    Photo: NPR

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    Traditional search is “user inputs text”.

    Voice search is “user says something that
    turns into text (hopefully correctly)”.

    AR/VR search might be “user looks at
    something; we implicitly turn that action
    into an intent that we turn into text”.

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  91. @creativenewman #IAC19
    IN CONCLUSION:
    A Few Parting Thoughts

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  92. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Work to understand user intent.
    (That probably means

    talking to your users)

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  93. @creativenewman #IAC19
    You know your content

    better than Google does.

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  94. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Refine your results.

    Test in context.

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    Search is a verb, not a noun.

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    Don’t forget that this still matters.

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  97. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Nina Totenberg

    NPR “Founding Mother” and

    Legal Affairs Correspondent

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  98. @creativenewman #IAC19
    Thank you.
    Dan Newman
    Director of Product Design
    @creativenewman
    [email protected]

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