The Search for Dynamic Navigation

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 Beyond Taxonomies

"A great example of fixedtaxonomy is the Library of Congress," says Feldman. "It didn’t evencall things computers; for a long time the label was electronic dataprocessing. No one could find anything when we started calling themcomputers. And not only that, the term 'computers' began to fragmentinto different kinds of computers. That wasn’t changed either becausechanging a taxonomy is a big project."

Typically, navigation isset up in one of three ways: tree-like, graphically, or cloud-like.Tree-like navigation is usually a list of links that can be broken downinto subsets of more links. Graphical navigation can include histogramsor other tools that will give the user an overview of the data withgraphics. Cloud-like navigation is especially popular on socialnetworking sites and blogs. Popular terms are presented in a "cloud" inwhich the size of the font for any of these terms indicates thepopularity or common use of that word or phrase.

According toRebecca Thompson, Vivísimo’s VP of marketing, the lack of ads allowsfor the opportunity to provide multiple navigation methods onenterprise sites. On many commercial websites, it is common for oneside of the site to be taken up with ads; a commerce site will havefaceted navigation, which includes the product categories. "Inenterprise, we’re not constrained by either of those models," saysThompson. "We theoretically have a lot more real estate to play with toshow visual representation, so we use all those dynamic navigationaltools."

For the architects of information access systems, theidea is to provide as many pathways into the information as peopleneed. Individuals do not all search in the same way, which is whyproviding different approaches to navigation is vital. "Navigationgives you the clue, the pathway, so you don’t have to think of ityourself," Feldman says.

Also, according to SurfWax president andCEO Tom Holt, the categories and structure the hierarchy builder usesare not always the same as what the end user imagines. "The reason wehave dynamic navigation is to look ahead," he says. "It flattens ahierarchy, making content instantly visible. Taxonomies are important,but they reflect an old way of thinking, especially in enterprise. Ifyou know what you’re looking for, you’re set, and the hierarchy mighthelp you navigate. But if you aren’t really sure or you want to browse,you’d want another approach."

To meet this need, SurfWaxdeveloped LookAhead, which can dynamically change the menus and contentof drop-down displays. "For example," says Holt, "as you type, inaddition to word lists, the user might see thumbnail images that changewith each additional character entered, different products/ pricinginformation, etc." And like other dynamic navigation access systems,searches and browses aren’t based on popularity of a site or on themost recent queries. It brings results based on the information the enduser has provided, rather than by what the search engine thinks youwant to know.

"We get lazy," says Holt, "and we don’t think hardabout the word we’re searching for. But dynamic navigation can pointout the exact information we need."

Users Join the Search

AtVivísimo, end users also play a role in how its Enterprise 2.0 evolvesto improve dynamic search. "We focus exclusively on the enterprise,"says Thompson. "So we take the concept of rating used on external sitesand use it on internal information." Users can attach tags to companydocuments or add a comment. "That becomes metadata, which can then bedynamically navigated later on."

One reason dynamic navigation isvital for enterprise is because it is otherwise difficult to get thesame type of relevance in a search within a company website andintranet structure than can be done on the web. "You can’t calculatepage rank, for example," says Vivísimo’s Pesenti. "The reason searchengines work so well is that they analyze the ranking structure of theweb. It gives users an idea what other pages people are interested inor are useful."

Enterprise information is structured differently,and it can be difficult to get that one document needed to the top ofthe page. "You need to give users the tools in order to refine theirsearches," Pesenti says.

Dynamic navigation also recognizes thatthe range of employees in an organization will not come to the sitewith the same background or knowledge. Allowing users to add tags andother metadata improves their ability to search for the properinformation, as well as for others who might use a similar vocabularyin their searches.

Vivísimo’s Enterprise 2.0, for example, allowsusers to add a tag to the document with information not included withinthe text. Pesenti says, "A user can add the keyword ‘competitor’ to adocument because it is information that has to do with a businesscompetitor. However, that word doesn’t actually appear in the document.But once it is tagged, I can now search, say, for mobile devices bycompetitor."

As well as using end-user tags and comments tocreate new metadata, dynamic navigation can also allow enterprises todevelop uniquely individual searches. This can be based on cookiesstored from a particular user or on a profile that the user has set upon a company’s site. "Say you know what industry the person is in,"says IBM’s Moran. "The search could automatically select that industryfacet and show them a set of industry case studies."

IBM’sOmniFind Enterprise edition focuses on searching through a company’sintranet. "It has the capability to reach in to all sorts of corporatesources," Moran explains.

Dynamic navigation is changing the waywe search, he adds. "If you look at what’s happening on the broaderweb, commerce sites no longer have flat web searching." And that iscarrying over to enterprise. "Studies show that this forward progressis one of the most important things in a successful conversion on awebsite. People are able to go in and complete their task."

Theaverage website search satisfies only 35% of users. The reason forthat, Moran says, is because visitors to a website expect the sameresults as when they visit a search engine. "They expect to type in acouple of words and come up with a lot of results. But on the internet,there are hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of websites competingto provide that answer. But when you’re looking within a singlewebsite, there is only one group allowed to answer the question. Ifthey didn’t use the same words that you do, you don’t find what you’relooking for."

For that reason, it has become critically importantto augment technology like dynamic navigation. Companies need torecognize that every website is trying to reach its customers. Theyneed to understand that the way to success is to allow people tofulfill their needs when they visit their website.

That was whatthe web designers at FoodNetwork.com have discovered. In redesigningthe website, Andrea Facini, VP of product design, recognizes the needto use dynamic navigation. "When people come to our site, they aresearching for something. They are on a quest," says Facini. "So we needto ask ourselves, what is the content that is the most relevant tothem?"

For FoodNetwork.com, recipes are the primary reason whyvisitors use and search the site. A visitor might decide to search fora recipe that uses chicken as its main ingredient. FoodNetwork.com usesa guided navigation approach developed by Endeca. When the user typesin the term chicken, the results will break down into different typesof recipes available, and as the user decides which path to follow, thesearch begins to be more narrow but better defined.

When you typethe word "cookie" into the recipe search box, a drop-down box appearswith options such as oatmeal, chocolate chip, or easy. If you hit thesearch button instead, you get a more traditional list result, which isstill a holdover from the original functionality of the site. Facinisays he decided against using cloud tags because for his audience, theyweren’t the best way to navigate.

"We had to explain the way theyworked," he says. "Our users didn’t understand the way they worked. Butfor other projects down the road, we’re planning that focus on youngerusers; we’ll use cloud tags."

Overall, Facini says his sitevisitors have embraced the dynamic navigation search functionality.Users are noting that they are able to get to the data they need morequickly, and it appears user satisfaction is high. "We’re stillmigrating between the old and new system," he says. "The best thingabout this platform is that the benefits are very tangible. You feelgood about using the site."

The value of dynamic navigation isthat it takes the guesswork out of searching for information. It allowsthe user to see the choices as the keyword is typed into the searchbar, allowing the user to browse the possibilities. Dynamic navigationoffers users a more flexible way to find the right information withjust a few keystrokes in a minimal amount of time.


Companies Featuered in this Article:

Endeca
www.endeca.com

Food Network
www.foodnetwork.com

IBM
www.ibm.com

IDC
www.idc.com

SurfWax
www.surfwax.com

Vivisimo
www.vivisimo.com

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