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Archive for the ‘User experience’ Category

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In our last two posts we’ve reviewed the use of models and metaphors in designing search, and explored one particular metaphor that was valuable for both its simplicity and utility. We’ve also reviewed the different ways in which navigational context may be propagated from one stage of the search journey to the next. In this post, we provide a generic framework for understanding how those transitions guide and shape the search experience with the aid of a simple but effective spreadsheet template.

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Image by PublicCo via Pixabay [CC0 Creative Commons]

In our last post, we looked at the role of metaphors and models in search, and explored one particular metaphor that was valuable for both its simplicity and utility: the chess metaphor. This simple notion helps us frame and structure the search experience in a way that allows us to better understand the stages involved, and how they combine to form a coherent information journey.  In this post, we take a closer look the principles that govern how to propagate the user’s navigational context from one phase to the next, and how those transitions shape the search experience.

At this point you may be thinking: ‘But what navigational context is there, apart from keywords?’ Of course, for many simple (aka web) search experiences that’s all there is: a handful of keywords in the opening game that are then echoed in the middle game. But many professional search applications (such as those used by lawyers, scientists, information professionals, etc.) make a virtue of offering a relatively complex opening game in which the user is invited to articulate the full extent of their information need in the form of a complex, pre-coordinated query. In these cases, the full detail of that navigational context needs to be propagated to the middle game in a manner that makes its presence transparent and its effects easily editable.

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By dbking (Chess Players in Dupont Circle) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s often said that search is a conversation: a dialog between two participants that can be every bit as rich as human conversation. On one side is the user, with an information need articulated in the form of a query, and on the other side is the system, with its response in the form of a set of search results. Like human conversation, the outcome relies on a shared understanding of intent and context. Together, these elements form a crucial part of the search experience, guiding and shaping the dialog in productive directions.

But the conversational metaphor can only take us so far. There are levels of nuance to the linguistic interaction between human beings that go beyond simple bidirectional exchanges, and likewise, there are patterns and sequences of human information seeking behavior that transcend the conversational metaphor. At this level, we need to take a more holistic approach, and view search from the perspective of stages in an information journey. In this post, we consider one such model of the information journey that is valuable for both its simplicity and utility.

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As you may recall last month I announced the line-up for Search Solutions 2017, to be held at BCS London on November 29. I’m pleased to announce that this year we’ll also be offering a Tutorial Programme, which will run the preceding day (Tuesday 28th). The programme consists of three half day-tutorials:

  • 09:30-13:00 Designing Search (Dr. Tony Russell-Rose, UXLabs)
  • 14:00-17:30 Text Analysis with GATE (Diana Maynard, University of Sheffield)
  • 14:00-17:30 Searching the Linked Open Data Cloud (Epaminondas Kapetanios, University of Westminster )

My tutorial is fully booked now, but I’ve appended further details below in case you’re interested in attending a future presentation. Last year I attended Diana’s tutorial on GATE and can highly recommend it as an excellent introduction to the platform and NLP in general. This year I am looking forward to Epaminondas’s tutorial on linked open data – very timely and topical!

Full details of pricing and registration are available on the Search Solutions website. Note that the closing date for bookings is Sunday 26th November. Hope to see you there 🙂

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I am looking for a front end / web developer for a 6-month contract (with possible extension) to work on an Innovate-UK funded project investigating graphical approaches to search strategy formulation. The aim of the project is to develop tools and techniques for search query formulation which can be integrated within a visual framework to deliver a more efficient and intuitive approach to professional search applications.

Requirements

  • Proven working experience in web programming
  • Familiarity with popular JavaScript frameworks such as AngularJS
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • Ideally experience of migrating existing desktop software applications to the web
  • Prepared to sign an NDA governed by English law.

Responsibilities

  • Write well designed, testable, efficient code by using best software development practices
  • Create user interfaces by using standard Javascript/HTML/CSS practices
  • Integrate data from various back-end services and databases
  • Create and maintain software documentation
  • Maintain awareness of emerging technologies & trends and put them into operation

Salary DOE. Part time working possible. Remote working by negotiation, but candidates will need to attend weekly meetings in London. Further details on request. Principals only please – no subcontractors. Can you recommend anyone?

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In case you missed it last time (since it filled up pretty quickly), there’s another chance to catch my full-day designing search tutorial in London on May 10. I’ll be presenting a full day course called Search Usability: Filters and Facets, which focuses on faceted search and provides deeper coverage of the key topics along with a variety of new practicals and group exercises.

For further details and registration, see the UKeIG website. In the meantime, I’ve appended further details below.

Hope to see you there!

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5126030385_e67759eb7f_zUnless you’ve been on another planet for the last year or so, you‘ll almost certainly have noticed that chatbots (and conversational agents in general) became quite popular during the course of 2016. It seems that every day a new start up or bot framework was launched, no doubt fuelled at least in part by a growth in the application of data science to language data, combined with a growing awareness in machine learning and AI techniques more generally. So it’s not surprising that we now see on a daily basis all manner of commentary on various aspects of chatbots, from marketing to design, development, commercialisation, etc.

But one topic that doesn’t seem to have received quite as much attention is that of evaluation. It seems that in our collective haste to join the chatbot party, we risk overlooking a key question: how do we know when the efforts we have invested in design and development have actually succeeded? What kind of metrics should be applied, and what constitutes success for a chatbot anyway?

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