If you’re creating a user interface for searching, what’s your approach?
What happens after the results is presented? Can the user filter and refine the
results to find exactly what they want? Are they forced to use an
"advanced" mode? Or, scroll through pages upon pages of results hoping to
find the right match?
If you’re interested in making a better search, read
Pattern: Refining Search
from Looks Good Works Well.
One of the most recent filtering searches I’ve used is from
NewEgg. I was trying to find a
new quiet graphics card to replace the hair drier model I’ve currently got
installed. It’s clear that NewEgg is attempting to cater to many types of
users. They have three different types of searches! The one with the most potential,
but doesn’t necessarily follow all of the suggestions in the blog post linked
above is the Guided Search. What I like about this search is that it provides
feedback before I make a selection. For example, in the screen shot, I can see that
there are 6 graphics cards that are priced between $10 – $25. If I click on
that link, the list is updated with a new set of choices.
The Advanced Search takes the old school approach, one where you can almost imagine
the SQL query that is constructed when the user hits the "Search" button.
My simple complaint with this one is that my searches usually end up with no results
as I have "over-specified" my requirements. I won’t know this until
I hit the search button though. Worse, I don’t often know what to remove or
simply in the search. It’s too hit and miss.
Finally, they offer a "Power Search." This search expands the drop-down
list idea and allows the user to multiple select from each category. Again, until
the search is completed, there’s no sense of whether a search will generate
any results. Hardly a spectacular user experience.
Although not perfect, the Guided Search is the most discoverable and friendly search
that NewEgg offers to the general consumer. It uses Ajax nicely to update the
results. One major challenge with the Guided Search from a user perspective is that
the list is constantly changing, which means that the user must reorient themselves
after each click.
Do you have any favorite search and filtering experiences you’d care to share?
Leave a comment.
Adobe made a handful of announcements early this morning:
The Flex team’s blog
has more details and a lot of links to get you started.
Is it just me, or are none of the demo applications very compelling?
The biggest change from "yesterday" is that it might be easier today to
write a cross-platform application — as long as AIR/Flex supports what you
want to do outside of the browser. I’d like Adobe to offer the
"Express" edition of Flex Builder so I can build things for free, just
like Microsoft does with Visual Studio.
Are you excited about this "AIR"? (Or Flex?)
My wife will watch lots of shows that I like to watch, partly because she has
similar tastes, but also because the shows I watch aren’t too awful (and
there’s that whole marriage sharing thing …). One show I suggested a few
months ago that looked like it might be interesting was the hour long show on BBC
TopGear. It’s a car show. I could see her skepticism visibly when I
announced it was something I wanted to watch together. "A car show?" Food
shows, travel shows, dramas, even history shows she’ll watch, but a car show?
By the end of the first episode, after laughing and enjoying it thoroughly, she gave
this show the "approved" nod and now looks for new episodes to show up on
the DVR. Since we’re just catching up and watching some re-runs, we’ve
been able to watch quite a few episodes recently.
Starting February 25th, 8pm et/pt, Top Gear’s new season begins to air on BBC
America. Sure, they talk of cars that aren’t available in the states, but real
car talk is only a small part of the show. The hosts make "car talk" fun.
Blue Iris for several
months now to monitor a few security cameras we have installed around our house.
It’s a brilliant piece of software that works as well as many software
packages that cost four to ten times as much (trust me, I’ve experimented and
tested packages that were $500 US).
The key features for me that I needed:
Runs as a Windows Service — even if no one is logged onto the computer,
the application is still monitoring
- Runs on Windows 2003 Server (or Windows Home Server).
Can send e-mail alerts when motion is controlled with a configurable options
(like the maximum frequency of e-mails sent within a period).
- Support of my IP based cameras.
Reasonable CPU usage (about 30-40% constant on my home server to monitor 4
- Continually updated — not a dead product
Remote access via a web page (the product does this well, but it’s not an
attractive web page — just functional).
Priced competitively — this product is priced almost too low — at
$49.95 for the unlimited package.
Stable — I haven’t had a single problem with the stability of the
product in months.
It has tons of options for configuration:
Tons of settings for each individual camera:
Here’s the built in web application (it’s ActiveX or Java based):
It even works with my Airlink 250W wireless IP camera (with a few tricks):
Even though the main application user interface is not very "professional"
— it’s a killer program and if you need something like this, I’d
strongly recommend you consider it.