A critique of ABCNews search

Posted by , May 26th, 2009 at 9:18 pm PST
Categories: Site Search | No Comments »

ABCNews recently announced they had improved their design, navigation and search.  I took a look at it and had a few comments.

It’s nice to see images in the search results – although I think they could be a little larger. It’s also good to have refinements and sort options.

OR Search

I noticed that they seem to do an OR search by default. That is they show you results that contain any of the terms in your search query. For example when I clicked on one of their Hot Topics shown above the search box – Susan Boyle. I was surprised to see that there were recipe results for the amateur Scottish signing sensation. On closer inspection they appeared to be showing because there are recipe results that contain the word “Susan”. Doing an OR search like this does mean there will be more results – so you are less likely to show no results. But it also means there can be a lot of irrelevant results. I recommend showing AND results by default – that is results that contain all the words in the query. If there are no results you can fail over to show results that contain some of the words. (A previous blog post discusses more strategies for the no results page)


Showing facets with no results

I also noticed that they show facets even when there are no results. For example a search for proposition 8 tells you that there are 0 recipes for that term. This is not that useful and they would be better off not showing that refinement option – this is standard practice for faceted search.


Not indexing all content

I tried searching for advertising or contact information (they have links for these in the footer of their pages) – but nothing relevant was returned. I suspect their site search isn’t indexing that content. I think it’s a good idea to index all the content on your site.

It’s nice to see ABC improving their site search for their news site and their stated commitment to improve it further. In my experience there is always room for improvement and because so many people elect to use the search – even small improvements in usability can have a significant impact.


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