Fixing Enterprise Search: Turning Find into Act – Part II

In my last blog post, I talked about changing your mindset from helping people find information to helping users act on the information they find. Many of the customers I have worked with describe this concept as a great “aha” moment.

The key to turning Find into Act is to understand who is searching and what they are trying to accomplish. For the purposes of this discussion, the search process should be divided into two areas:

  • queries, and
  • results

The query is the first opportunity to find out who is doing the search and what they are trying to accomplish. There are a number of ways to learn more about your user and their needs at query time. Three areas we often use are:

  • Context
  • Guided Navigation
  • Searchlets

Context can be particularly helpful to understand what your user is trying to do. Most web sites have a diverse set of areas with specific purposes. Often you can get clues as to what a person is trying to do based on where they are on your site. For example, if you have an insurance site and your user is at the claims section of the site, there is a good chance they want to submit a claim. The search results that are presented to this user should be primarily focused on helping them submit a claim.

Guided navigation is another great tool to understand what a user is looking for. Unlike context, guided navigation offers an explicit method of understanding what your user is trying to do. For those of you that do not know what guided navigation is, take a look at Sam Mefford’s blog on the subject. Categories like marketing material or forms allow you to understand what your users are looking to accomplish. Once your users filter their search results by a particular category, you can change the presentation of the results to make them more easily actionable.

Searchlets, or small search applications, offer another great way to understand what your user is trying to do. A searchlet is a small search box that serves an explicit purpose and searches only a specific type of content. A great example of a searchlet can be found on many travel and entertainment sites. The site may offer a great deal of general travel information. Users that want hotel or auto rental information are provided a search box that allows them to book their hotel or rent a car. Users that begin their search in a searchlet are telling you what they want to do. They have made a conscious decision to book a hotel room or rent a car. The search results for these searchlets can be customized to make it easy to rent a car or book a hotel room.

Another way to change your search from Find into Act is to focus on the search results. Organizations that build their own search are at a great advantage over companies like, Google and Yahoo. You may not have their money and resources, but you understand better the content you are searching against.

Our clients have been looking for more meaningful ways to display individual search results. In response to this need, we created a process called “hit type analysis”. A hit type is a unique type of search result similar to a content type. The point of this process is to identify types of search results and to create a unique presentation for each result.

For example, one of your search results might be an event or conference. An event result should display the conference dates, location and a link to the conference registration page. Now your user is able to make a decision about the conference and register right from the search results screen. Another common example is people search inside a company intranet. Many of our clients index their company phone book as part of their intranet search. The person hit type should include a phone number, job title, department and e-mail. Some of our more creative implementations have also included links to all of the content the person authored. The searcher now understands what the person in the search result knows and how to contact them. Your searcher is now ready to take action.

Our clients have gotten great value changing their search mindset. You can too!

Avalon Consulting, LLC About Avalon Consulting, LLC

Avalon Consulting, LLC implements Big Data, Web Presence, Content Publishing, and Enterprise Search solutions. We are the trusted partner to over one hundred clients, primarily Global 2000 companies, public agencies, and institutions of higher learning.

Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Avalon also maintains offices in Austin, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, DC.

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