SIGIA-L Mail Archives: RE: [Sigia-l] ROI/Value of Search Engine
RE: [Sigia-l] ROI/Value of Search Engine Design - Resources?
From: Boniface Lau (boniface_lau_at_compuserve.com)
Date: Sun Feb 09 2003 - 20:41:59 EST
> From: sigia-l-admin_at_asis.org [mailto:sigia-l-admin_at_asis.org]On
> Behalf Of Jared M. Spool
> >Would you mind suggesting a query in place of "DVD player" to show
> >how Amazon gets into trouble handling non-uniquely-identified
> You'll get in trouble thinking in terms of disembodied queries. You
> need to think in terms of what your users enter into the site.
Okay, I will keep that in mind while examining your examples.
> Take these examples:
> (1) A user, looking for "a low-cost, yet reliable laptop computer
> that will last 4 years for his son who is going away to school"
> typed "laptops" into Amazon's search and receives 210 results,
I went to amazon.com, selected "computers", then entered "laptops"
into the search box, I got three notebook recommendations, not 210
results. At the bottom, there was a link to 210 results. To see for
yourself, go to:
> for which he has no way of discerning if any of these computers
> match his criteria.
The above mentioned three recommendations from Amazon include price,
brand, processor speed, memory, and disk space. They are important
information for determining whether a laptop is "low-cost, yet
Thus, in handling the "laptops" query for non-uniquely-identified
content, Amazon is doing pretty good. It is far from "getting into
As to whether any of the three recommended laptops "will last 4 years
for his son who is going away to school", it depends on how much the
user knows about his son's usage of laptops. The more he knows that,
the more likely he can interpret the three recommendations to see if
any of them fits his criteria.
> (2) A user, looking for "the film thingy you put into a digital
> camera" typed "digital camera film" into Amazon's search and
> receives all sorts of interesting results, none of which are the
> 32mb Compact Flash card he really was looking for.
I went to Amazon.com, selected "Camera & Photo", entered "digital
camera film", then initiated a search. On the result page, there was
an entry for "Polaroid 30MB Compact Flash Card for Digital Cameras".
You can see for yourself at:
While the recommended Compact Flash is only 30MB and is at the bottom
of the screen, I wouldn't use that result to support the argument that
Amazon gets into trouble handling non-uniquely-identified content.
> (3) A user, looking for "a pair of leather shoes I'd seen at urban
> outfitters" typed in "leather shoes" and gave up when seeing the
> site return 2,113 results, even though the BDG Leather Boots she
> wanted were available on the site for $29 less than what she ended
> up paying in the store.
The user might as well just typed in "shoes". It is like using the
query "classical music" to find a music CD with "Brahms-Schoenberg
Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25". If I were to use such queries, I
would expect to browse through a large number of matches. Hardly a
case of Amazon getting into trouble handling non-uniquely-identified
Example three is very important in another way. The UIE article "Why
On-Site Searching Stinks" (http://www.uie.com/searchar.htm) said:
WOSSS> Our data showed that today's on-site search engines are worse
WOSSS> than nothing -- significantly worse.
Was such extreme statement based on the results of extreme queries
like "leather shoes"?
> Sure, 'laptops' works as a query. It didn't work for our user
> because they didn't get what they needed.
As my above reply indicated, just because some people did a search and
not getting what they needed is NOT necessary a problem of the search
engine or the site. It could very well be a problem of the users.
> As I said, users interact with non-uniquely-identified content
> differently than with uniquely-identified content, such as books or
Mind you, books or CDs are NOT necessary uniquely-identified content
from the user perspective. It depends on how much users know what they
Similarly, not all users searching for DVD players use a generic
term. Those who have read reviews on a particular model or have played
with one in a show room will likely search for a specific model,
similar to people searching for a particular book or CD title.
> That was the point with DVD Players. Tonight, Amazon gives 485
> results to the query 'DVD Player', so it must work as a query. But
> did it work for the user who just wanted to buy his niece a niece
> DVD player and didn't know the first thing about them?
I went to amazon.com, selected "Electronics", entered "DVD players"
into the search box, I did not get 485 results. I got a small list of
recommendations along with a link to explore 485 results. You can see
for yourself at:
For users who truly didn't know the first thing about DVD players, one
player would be judged as good as the other. Thus, those users would
probably pick one from the recommended.
But let's say users wanted to ensure that they are getting quality
players. They remembered Sony as a quality brand name. So, they
searched for "Sony DVD Players" and got something that they perceived
as quality products. Such quick screening would be otherwise
impossible if Amazon does NOT have search capability.
Yes, queries like "leather shoes" produces a large number of matches.
But that does NOT mean "today's on-site search engines are worse than
nothing -- significantly worse." Neither does that mean Amazon "gets
into trouble" handling non-uniquely-identified content.
I hope my response helps to put things in a more balanced perspective.
When replying, please *trim your post* as much as possible.
*Plain text, please; NO Attachments
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