May 5, 2006

Blog Search Engines and UI Design

i was spending some lunch time thinking about the demo i saw at sharpcast last evening, which spurred some interesting thoughts about their business (a quick note on that: seems like their competitors will be as much omnidrive and the online storage companies of the world as it will be mobile services startups. after all, users are going to care about access to information everywhere; whether they'd like that to be on all their devices all the time or just in some central accessible place is an interesting question to bet on). but anyway, as i was thinking about sharpcast i thought to myself "hmm, wouldn't this be a nice chance to go look up some blogs on the topic?" after all, isn't a web 2.0 company like sharpcast exactly in the sweet spot of today's blog search engines? shouldn't technorati and (the newly-launched) sphere be able to hit home runs if i just type in the word "sharpcast"? so i went ahead and quickly typed 'sharpcast' into the respective sites, and i was struck by something. i'll just show the photos first (with some key red highlighting), and you can tell me who you think has a more effective user experience:
technorati Technorati sphere Sphere
go ahead and look a little closer if you want, i'll wait. now let's forget, for just a second, about the relevance of the results (um, by the way technorati, might need to work on that), and think about just the human-computer interaction. considering the business of a search engine is to provide the most relevant results as easily as possible to the user, which interface seems like it's better focused on that goal? there's a reason that people preferred the google interface to that of countless dead search engines. now i realize searching in blogs is an inherently difficult process. things are time-sensitive and fast-moving. but instead of throwing your hands up in exasperation and littering the interface with invented functionality (tags), grotesque and irrelevant "sponsored links", and a completely absurd banner ad, wouldn't it be a good idea to think about what the USERS want? with a search engine, users want results and they want results that make sense. two things. that's it. it feels like technorati's almost saying, "um yeah, we've got some results for you, but wouldn't it be better if you looked at all of THESE things? especially since they make us money?" considering the average internet user doesn't even know if he's interested in searching for blogs period, i think that might be a bad idea. but that's just me. bottom line: sphere's interface is beautiful and usable (designed by the folks at adaptive path), which means they're already removing one of the impediments to people using a blog search engine. now it's up to them to try to remove the other impediment: finding great content that actually adds value to the users.


At 5/05/2006 10:51:00 PM, Blogger Chris L said...

Yeah, but which one has a recurring revenue stream =)

Seriously, though, I remember Technorati used to be pretty clean (at least when I used it once or twice a year ago). I guess they realized they needed a revenue stream, and intrusive ads was the way they went. Unfortunately, they didn't take the lessons from Google and make advertising unobtrusive.

At 5/10/2006 03:57:00 PM, Anonymous Tony Conrad said...

Just read your review (Ryan pointed me to it) - thanks for the kind words about sphere. We spent a lot of time thinking about what blog readers want, both advanced and new users. The interface is clean and simple, getting people to the results (and we believe our results are very good) which is what everyone wants. We've also included several features, such as the custom range search time frame and the sphere it bookmarklet (my favorite app) with advanced users in mind.

Ryan and the AP folks did great work for us, saving from ourselves more than once in the process of locking down a feature set and UI.

Thanks again - Tony

At 11/21/2006 10:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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