Posted on Nov 25, 2004

Last night saw me dashing a couple of junctions up the M1 to the offices of Steria Ltd for a meeting of the Hertfordshire branch of the BCS. This was my first time as an attendee, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Around forty people turned up to listen to Guy Seward give a presentation titled Twelve Minutes to Web Rage!, which discussed some ideas about combining searching and browsing interfaces when designing (or re-designing) websites. In essence his proposition (and that of the spin-off company, NaviGuide) is that:

  • users who search tend to provide inadequate data for a useful query, so they are given lots of results to sift through,
  • the structure of many sites is poor, making browsing to find something time-consuming and difficult.

NaviGuide’s solution to this is to combine the results of a search operation with improved browsing. This generally takes the form of highlighting elements of the browsable structure of the site based on the results of a search operation.

The examples given (from Boots commerce site and a BA internal site) looked promising, though the researchers are somewhat surprised that the performance of test subjects when asked to locate a specific item within a site didn’t appear to have improved.

Unfortunately I had to leave before the end of the presentation, but it was an interesting and entertaining couple of hours.

My favourite part of the whole experience was the map of directions provided by Steria:


This is probably the best set of directions I’ve ever seen. Pictures of the road signs are included, as well as an indication of junctions and round-abouts to pass. Really nice.