I just read a New York Times article recommending we use Google for everything including searching Ebay, and while I can see the reasoning, I can see at least one critical feature Google must add before I can recommend it as the ideal search experience: Faceted Search.
When our Enterprise Search clients think of improving the search experience for their users, they want to learn from the best, and frequently they look first to get great ideas from Google. Nobody questions that Google is the King of Web Search. Google has captured our hearts and our clicks, and profited tremendously. But is the Google search experience the one to copy for Enterprise Search?
I find it very interesting that Ebay has Faceted Search, yet Google still doesn’t. Why does Google omit this feature? I can see many reasons…but then I could see many reasons they omitted suggest as a default feature, and they surprised me last month and added it to their default search box. So Google may soon surprise us and add Faceted Search, but for now I will keep telling clients that the Ebay search experience is a better one to copy than Google’s.
The first step on Ebay is what we all expect: enter a few keywords, and get back the best results the engine could find based on those keywords. The second step on Ebay is not found on Google: click the most appropriate category link on the left to narrow results to what you were really looking for (box A below).
You’ll also notice several other very handy ways to filter there on the left: by price, new/used, auction/buy it now (box B above). But these filters apply to any product on Ebay. Now comes my favorite feature of all when you click on the “Laptops & Notebooks” category, you now get filters especially helpful for narrowing to exactly the laptop and notebook you’re looking for, like screen size, processor speed, and memory:
The fundamental difference here is that Ebay is working with more structured information, whereas Google is working with mostly unstructured information. The better the structured information, the better the Faceted Search experience. Of course, Google is expert at taking unstructured information and extracting structure, as best shown by the amazing features on Google Map’s Local Search. If only they would do the same for Froogle, it could quickly be as good, or better, than the search experience on Ebay.
I know the search experience on Ebay isn’t perfect, none is…but with the powerful Faceted Search offered by Ebay, we have a much higher chance of finding what we’re looking for. Don’t your users deserve the same? Next time you’re contemplating improvements to your one of your organization’s search interfaces, don’t forget to include Faceted Search.