Magazine article Information Today

Unacceptable Search Design

Magazine article Information Today

Unacceptable Search Design

Article excerpt

Back in the mists of time--the early days of online--I was rowdy when it came to online systems. In article after article and speech after speech, I would rail at failures in vendor performance. In those long-gone days, Dialog was the dominant search service for all professional searchers, except those in the fields of journalism and law (for which LexisNexis dominated). My company subscribed to more online search services than any library in the country. At least, I think it did, and no one I ever met at an online conference ever said he or she had more. But it was adding LexisNexis to our repertoire that led me to a moment of epiphany that led, in turn, to a lifetime pursuit of unacceptable practices in the information industry.

In the course of learning the new LexisNexis system, I came across a one-line description of a feature it offered. In a design to target end users--journalists or lawyers, in this case--LexisNexis automatically singularized and pluralized terms. You could still truncate, but you didn't have to do it just to make sure of mentioning just one of two of whatever. So you saved truncation for reaching adjectives, gerunds, and adverbs, etc. My mouth fell open in awe. Then I thought of all the hundreds (nay, thousands) of question-mark-space-question-marks that my life with Dialog had entailed--and all the ones to come. And my previous idolization of that service started to diminish. Love it? Yes. Use it? Every day. Recommend it? Over and over. But admire it? Respect it completely? Not anymore.

Listen to the Users

In the course of reading the May/June 2016 issue of Online Searcher, I had another such epiphany, this time from Greg Notess' On the Net column, "Advanced Search Techniques: Geolocation and Structured Data Search." Notess' incredibly detailed knowledge of just how to attempt to drag search systems--kicking and screaming--away from localizing results to the searcher's usual place on the planet to some other geographic entity was admirable as an illustration of his intelligence, not to mention diligence. But after a while, it seemed as if success would only be achieved by standing on one foot, raising both arms over your head, swinging your left arm clockwise and your right arm counterclockwise, all while whistling Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

Sheesh! Although three-quarters of the column was devoted to these geolocation high jinks, the last quarter on structured data did not raise my temperature as much. …

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