Advanced Search: Is The Name A Problem?

When you’re preparing a newspaper for the world of on-line news, helping your audience find the information they need is paramount.

Anders M Olausson, CTO of (a local Swedish newspaper/site) ponders the problem.

Advanced Search: Is The Name A Problem?According to Google only 1% of the searches uses “advanced search”. It’s a remarkable low figure if you think about how tough some people think it is to find what they are looking for. But then it struck me, is it advanced to use “Advanced search”? Not particularly.

In this example we want to find an interview in the local news with our old childhood friend Michael Bolton about a successful business he started a while ago. We know they are selling some specific type of stylish furniture, but we’re not quite sure if it is chairs or tables, though.

Boy, would he have been easier to find on the Internet if somebody with the same name hadn’t started winning Grammys when our friend was 12 years old! So how do we avoid going through more a 2.5+ million hits worth of music related sites?

Either we use a complex search pattern like this:
furniture chairs OR tables “Michael Bolton” -music

That’s fine for the technically astute, but what about the rest of wo/mankind?

Or, we could use the ‘Advanced search’ function and simply fill out the fields like this:
With all these words: furniture
With the exact phrase: Michael Bolton
With one of these words: chairs tables
Without these words: music

OK, that works but how do we get them to use the Advanced Search, beyond the 1% that currently are?

Advanced Search: Is The Name A Problem?As site builders, it’s in our interest to make it as easy as possible for our visitors – we want them to find our articles.

It doesn’t matter how good GUI is that we build, we always need to make it easy to search the site.

I think we scare people if we call it “Advanced Search” as even the name excludes people from clicking it as it sounds threatening or difficult to use.

But what shall we call it and how do we encourage people to feel more comfortable with it?

I want visitors to understand that Advanced Search actually is Easy Search or Better Search.

I reckon the best way to do this is to encourage larger companies, like Google to change their approach and actually change the name on “Advanced Search” to something more welcoming, and try to make it some kind of standard.

9 thoughts on “Advanced Search: Is The Name A Problem?”

  1. One way to improve the usage might be to ask the user after a few searches in a row if he/she might want some help with getting better results and then link them to the “advanced” page or a better guide.

  2. The utility of ‘advanced’ search options are also dependent upon what the purpose of the site is, and just how good the search is.

    For sites with complex data sets like dating sites, or ebay for example advanced options are very often used to filter the results into a manageable or matching set. Also sites like have both more complex search upfront and filters on results pages. Does this count as using advanced search?

    And finally, if the search results are ‘good enough’ then people will not bother with an extra step no matter how you label it.

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