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Ask Mobile With No Search on Homepage  (View post)

Florian SEROUSSI [PersonRank 1]

Monday, October 16, 2006
14 years ago8,093 views

I like the google mobile page because it is super light. Ask could be could be do we really want to see that huge menu of features??

Veky [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Well... what's so strange about that? Most people don't like typing on mobile keyboards... if they can "gopher" it out of menus, they'll be much happier.

Ask is not Google... it tries to "think outside the (search) box".

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> Most people don't like typing on mobile keyboards... if they
> can "gopher" it out of menus, they'll be much happier.

Veky – as soon as you click the items, you *have* to type anyway. The search box is there, it's just a click away.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Philipp, yes the searchlet is one click away ..but the search enginge knows which topic you want and returns "sqeezed results "within that topic. This makes it a lightweight mobile app.. I still use m.bloglines as its the best expereience on my crackberry!!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Google mobile also squeezes the results... it finds & presents Local results from the main "web" search box...

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

==>> "it finds & presents Local results from the main "web" search box..."

I dont think so.. or is it just me ?? Local results from the main searchlet!!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

E.g. enter [videos stuttgart, germany] into their main search box, you'll even get mobilified driving directions and phone numbers and sweet mini maps :D ... they'll figure out what you want and save you 1 click.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

ahhhhhhhh..ok I see what you are saying.. its the term that drives the results.. Ok I'll ceed that point with you :)-

But what I am getting at is that unless its specified will you get local result. The Engine is not smart enough ot churn out local results based on genic search term

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

... and hey, I trust Ask got these usability results, that's why I was so puzzled! My intuitive choice would be to put the box on the homepage and then also add links to other services (or radio buttons, like Google does).

Shawn McCollum [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I've been working/playing with a mobile search site at . It's kind of a meta portal. There is a drop down of services and a text box.

Gary Price [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I would like to share a couple of comments. I hope that more will be coming from another exec at a higher level than me. I appreciate the space and time PL has been giving me and

A) Remember, not everyone has the same web browser, mobile access and/or have never been on the mobile web. We
not only hope that this release (more releases to come) will get more people using the mobile web but make it easy for them. As someone who speaks to "typical" end users all of the time, I can't stress enough how important ease of use is. Those of us who "live" search frequently forget this.

B) For advanced users, (GB readers), many of our mobile features are available directly from the main web search box. You do not need to go to the
various interfaces. This is also the case on our main web search site*.

Weather Stuttgart ...

Area Code 215 ...
Also note we provide the major towns it covers.

Currency Convert ...

Time in Stuttgart ...

We also currently include many Wikipedia results at the top of some search pages: ... ...

Finally, most results sets also include Ask's Zoom feature at the bottom of a page to help a searcher (sometimes even advanced ones
narrow, expand or focus) there search.

Example: ...

As noted in an earlier post our directions (like on the main web site) contain both driving and walking directions. ...
Example: Walking to Wrigley Field in Chicago or by turn. ...

The see "all matches" link makes sure that you know that one address is both at a North or South location.

As also pointed out, like most of the other mobile sites, we use Skweezer to squeeze pages for mobile viewing. ...

We also offer links on each page to your most recent searches, again potentially saving a click or two.

Not that I'm into astrology, but it's popular, and you can use your keyboard (no typing) to get to your

Using your keyboard can help you move around the site. For example, hitting "O" always take you back to
Hitting any number on a results page will take you to that entry.

Finally, I think GB readers know that things change quickly in the web search world. Look for more coming soon.

One thing I would like to see is what we do on our main site. Enter a city/state and get a Smart Answer with
direct links to official home pages, maps, school info, etc. ...

Another thing we're doing on (mobile soon) is using keywords FROM THE MAIN SEARCH WINDOW to assist
the searcher. Again, the point here is the main search window. It can show people that image databases exist in the first placeand
also help with their answer.
Watercolors of Flowers ...
Sculptures of lions ...
Logos of Lufthansa ...
Drawing of Harry Truman ...

Things move quickly in web search and I would look for more features both at and in the very near future.

Sam Davyson [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Gary you havent actually addressed the key issue here. Yes web search and mobile web search has some nice features. But why do you not have a search box on the front page?

Gary Price [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Sam: Your wish is my command. I've been trying to reach PL to see how he would like to handle this but in the mean time, I asked Doug Leeds, the person quoted in the press release, someone closer to the product on the development side, and a VP at to comment. What folllows are his thoughts about mobile and the page. One of the goals I had when I started at Ask (this is my library training) was getting answers from THE source. This is an example. So, here are Doug's comments.
From: Doug Leeds
VP, Product Management

Assuming that the "huh" [in PL's post] is not rhetorical, let me provide a little more background on why we pulled the search box.

We found out some important things during our research, some which confirmed what we thought going in and others which challenged our assumptions. A less controversial finding than the search box, but one that contradicted information we read elsewhere, was that nearly all the time, people want to use search on a mobile phone just like they do on a PC.
In general, we found, people search for the same type of information and use the same queries that they use on a PC. One very important implication of this is that, like on a PC, iteration is an key part of searching on a mobile device.

However, unlike on a PC, there are constraints that make search iteration on a mobile device more difficult. For example, relatively limited bandwidth makes it much more time consuming to perform multiple searches. At the same time, a common way to solve for the bandwidth issue, reducing the number of results that appear on a single page, only exacerbates the problem because there are fewer results to determine how to refine the search.

Typing is another problem. On most phones (non smart phones), each letter can take multiple keystrokes. (An "R" is three strokes, an "S" is four.) This not only means tons of time typing but also many many more typos. Typos lead to poorer results and more iteration, meaning more time lost and more typing. It's a vicious circle.

Given these findings we started looking really hard at how we could reduce the amount of typing required to get to the "end point," with the "end point" being the search result that satisfied a user for a particular search.

We started by integrating our Zoom Related Search feature from our regular results. Zoom provides suggested ways to narrow or expand a search and is really perfect for the mobile experience.

Another key was to add in Smart Answers, which are custom selected content modules that appear at the top of many search results page. Gary has listed a few examples of this above.
[Up] ...

Both of these features (and especially Zoom) are methods of disambiguation, where we take what was entered and refine it to what is meant.

But both are applied post-search. While that's fine on the PC, where keystrokes are cheap, on a mobile device, where keystrokes are expensive, it started to make a ton of sense to attempt PRE-search disambiguation. Get a single click upfront that can save a ton of expensive clicks later on.

Now, this was something of a religious conversion for many of us here.

We were just as attached to that iconic search box on the front page as anyone. Indeed, it was debated internally whether even to test it because at the time we felt that even if it proved successful, we'd never kill the home page search box. But lo and behold, it not only tested well, it blew us away.

It turns out that the search box was attracting searchers the way a light bulb attracts moths. Especially on the small screen of a mobile phone, users didn't see anything else--just the box and they instinctively start typing. And as discussed above, more typing meant more problems.

Removing the search box had the immediate effect of uncovering all of the other search tools we offer. (Tools we offer on our PC home page in a toolbox that gets much more viability on a PC monitor). These tools are designed to disambiguate queries. For example, instead of typing "weather in SF" users click <weather> and type only "SF." On a normal phone keypad this saves 18 of the 25 clicks required to get a result (remember "r" takes 3 clicks).

On average, we saw a 25-40% decrease in the number of clicks to the "end point."

After confirming these results our decision to remove the search box became rather obvious.

Users were overwhelmingly more satisfied with the approach (though not all knew why). And we saw the relevance of all results (factoring in results for typo queries) dramatically improve.

We at pride ourselves on making the search experience better for today's searchers. We believe that, to quote the X-files, "the truth is out there" and (unlike some of the other players in this field) we don't have to own all the content on the web to make it useful, provided that people can find it as fast and easily as possible. We've built this philosophy into our main web experience and we have been excited to apply a bit of "out of the box" thinking to bring it to the mobile web.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this with you and thanks for trying the product.

VP, Product Management

Sam Davyson [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Hmmm. Thank you for that Gary. That was very comprehensive. As a summary I would say that research conducted by yourselves at found that people would never click a link to get a second search box if they had a search box on the first page.

I think a better approach might be to have a search box on the first page and to then have links to the various search categories that function such that when pressed they show the results from the query in the search box in that search category. So e.g.

[ Search Box]

1 – search web
2 – search images
3 – search weather etc.

That seems to be the optimal solution to me.

Note: I have not even got a mobile phone with a colour screen, never mind internet capabilities. I have never browsed the mobile web either.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I think Gary's response is in line with my orignal thoughts. The sole reason that they don't searchlet is that they want to find out FIRST what type of search are you interested in . if its weather then the term need only be "SF" or if its sports it could only be "SOX" or if its flights it could be "SFO"

For those who dont have smart phones, these type of terms actually create a lot more clicks in the searchlet and yeilds poorer results. These tools are two fold.

1) Designed to disambiguate queries
2) Desgined for click optimization across a broad base of handheld devices.
3) Yeild the best results <=== Thats up in the air for every search engine :)-

Gary Price [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

PLEASE NOTE THAT THe COMMENTS ABOVE are from the VP of Product Mgmt at, Doug Leeds.


You write:
"Note: I have not even got a mobile phone with a colour screen, never mind internet capabilities. I have never browsed the mobile web either."

Please come join us (and the other products) but you do make a point, not only is the mobile web new to many but many people don't have colour screens, have older phones (text only) and get confused easily (aka give up). As I've said before, those of us who follow search closely often forget this. It's important not to forget.

Also, as I point out here (for the advanced mobile searcher)
[Up] ...
several advanced answers are available directly from the web search box with a simple search.

Finally, /pd yes I agree with what you have to say but from the point of view of a librarian, one of my roles at Ask.

One of the first thing taught in library school and then continuing throught a program is helping the user get to what he or she wants.
Often called a reference interview.

An example we often use is the search "dog" when someone actually wants info a specific breed or breeders. This goes to your first point, disambiguate. People start general but want something specific.

Our choices (with the undertstanding that more is coming on mobile) helps with that.

That's also what Zoom is for (available on mobile) along with the boxes for other types of searches or as you say it, "designed to disamiguate queries." Doug calls it pre-disambiguate.

Remember, Ask Mobile is a work in progess.

But take a look at what Ask offers for a search on the regular web site for dogs. ...

Basic facts, taxonomy, etc. However, what if a searcher wants info on a specific breed we disambiguate with a simple but comprehensive pull-down to pages on specific breeds of dogs.

You can also see it here (the help with the disamibugation) on regular web search. Say someone wants a Zip Code for a specific location but they don't enter they state and at the same time that location has many Zip Codes.

Try the regular web search Zip Codes Portland. Note I did not specify a state.
The result lists Portland, OR first, then a link to all Zips for Portland, OR
and then a list of all cities named Portland. ...

I think it's easy to envision what Doug calls a PRE-search disamibguation coupled with post search technology would be a natural fit for a Zip Code tool.

Let me stress again, those who follow search and are advanced searchers often forget (I often do) that most people don't search or even know about the tools that we use daily.

I spoke at a librarians conference last week and the word that came up several times from the audience was easy, quick, and effective.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

As I sent to Gary:

Just a small comment reg. disambiguation – Google does it via radio buttons:

Also, as we all know usability testing only tests limited contexts which are filled with assumptions. As an example, Pepsi fares better in testing done on the street compared to Coke... because it's sweeter, and if we only drink a little we prefer sweetness. If however you ask people when they take a box of the beverage home, they prefer Coke because the sweetness of Pepsi is a disadvantage over time.

Somewhat similarly, you'd get different results when you usability-test a homepage on mobile devices over a longer amount of time... so just imagine you'd want to settle for a "start" page on your mobile phone. Wouldn't you want a search box on it? Would you think "Ask is the definite SEARCH solution on my mobile phone!" even when there's no search box?

"Don't make me think" is one of the core principles of usability, and frankly, when I'm sitting in the train chatting with my friend and we want to grab a pizza, I want to open my homepage which I know has a search box, and I want to enter "pizza stuttgart" or something (both words are in the dictionary to my phone, so I don't need to type them, btw). This works so great on Google, which immediately returns results from Google Local with links to Maps, even though I never switched to

In any case, maybe mobile users in Europe have different tastes, I definitely know mobile phones is one of the only technologies where non-US countries usually have the newer types of phones... it's weird 'cause we lag behind on everything else, but when I check Wired, they show me last year's phones! :)

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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