Yahoo delivers major search enhancement

Yahoo came out Monday with a new search tool that wraps up three features into one widget. The features are:
  • autocomplete
  • related searches
  • filtering
It's the last of these that's the most interesting, because the first two have been implemented elsewhere, namely on Microsoft Live and Ask.

Yahoo's usability experts boast that with this new tool, their test subjects experienced a 61% increase in task completion. I played with it and found it somewhat confusing, but I think it's a nice feature. It's an important one that I think, will spur Google to make some enhancements to its own search service, which have seen no notable improvements since they introduced image search.

In any case, helping users complete tasks is the most important objective, but the impact of this tool is going to be more search result page views, more targeted searches, more targeted ads and more for Yahoo's bottom line. They chose the term "Explore Concepts" to describe the filtering feature for a good reason: it encourages search "browsing" and exploration that had previously been limited to related searches, none of which were ever very well-implemented.

I said that the tool was a little confusing, and it is. An experienced web user will take a few minutes to figure it out. Here are the things that will cause confusion:
  • "Explore Concepts" uses a two-column list and a scroll right to move through it, which in itself is confusing. But there's no visible transition to see that you've moved over one column, and the blank area to the right of the scroll right, with an arrow pointing at it suggests that something is going to appear in that blank area, which doesn't happen.
  • The plus sign appended to the "Explore Concepts" term looks actionable (it actually indicates filtering)
  • When you click on one of the filter terms, the whole list of filters changes, which is disorienting, especially because the term listed after "Explore Concepts" does not change.
Here we search for the World Heritage city Luang Prabang.

Autocomplete at work:
Using right scroll with two-column data with no visible transition:
Is something going to show up on the right?
Explore Concepts now has a new list of terms, even though it still says "Explore Concepts: luang prabang+" and not "Explore Concepts: luang prabang+buddha images+":
On the whole, a promising new feature, but there's enough there to confuse new and even experienced users.

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Posted at 7:07 PM | 0 comments read on