Enterprise Search Experience – #ESearchX

by | Mar 20, 2020 | Digital workplace, Search

Over the last decade of enterprise search projects, the project objectives have changed from “Help us chose a search application” to “How can we get the best out of our current application?”. As an information scientist my focus has always been on the user experience, going back into the technology only as far as it needed to understand the opportunities and challenges of delivering a good search experience. For some years now I have been working with Professor Paul Clough at the Information School at the University of Sheffield on the development of a search evaluation methodology. It has turned out to be a very considerable challenge. My launch of SearchCheck as a search evaluation methodology is qualitative solution even though based around scoring; both Paul and I were (and indeed are!) looking for something more quantitative and robust. 

In parallel I have been paying much more attention to user interfaces and trying to understand how enterprise search users search. You can see this trend in my CMSWire columns. This interest is also why I published Achieving Enterprise Search Satisfaction in 2018 around an eight-point strategy on improving search satisfaction. The problem remains as to how we measure search satisfaction.

Listening to James Robertson (Step Two Designs) talk about the Digital Employee Experience (DEX) at the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen in early March started me thinking about the role of search in this Experience. At present search does not get a specific mention in the many blogs and reports on DEX and I’ve decided that the time has come to put enterprise search (in its widest definition as a search environment) into more of a spotlight.

So what is the basis of a ‘Enterprise Search Experience’? As a work-in-progress statement it is to ensure that the value of the results obtained balances with the effort required to find them. There is good evidence to suggest that users stop searching when they feel that the effort to continue will not result in further relevant results. This is defined as the stopping point in a search session. Attaining a high search experience is not necessarily about being able to deliver results in a single session. A good experience might be to be able to store both the query history in stages and the results obtained at each stage. (This was a key feature of the online search services developed in the 1970s!)

I am now suggesting #ESearchX as a useful Twitter tag for research, outcomes and comments on

  • User requirements definitions
  • User interface design
  • Usability testing
  • Accessibility
  • Metrics and feedback

These are not exclusive topics but an illustration of what I see as the scope of #ESearchX. Content quality in particular has a major impact on the quality of search results but improving content quality has to be an information management issue, not just a search performance issue.

I would welcome comments on the position I am taking on #ESearchX. I should add that not only was #ESX already taken and I wanted a tag that was more visibly about search.

Martin White