Search and thou shalt find!

It was interesting listening to Vanessa Fox talk about search, the primary way to navigate the Web. Fox, an expert on this topic wants all of us to solve the searcher’s problem. This is not an easy task as we think differently, confuse ourselves online and sometimes get lost that we need to search ourselves!

We are all lazy, ogle the left side of the page and graphics attract us more than lumps of text. With this common data, why do we still design Web sites that don’t deliver? I think a lot of how we define search depends on the context. In short, we  try to have a semblance of objectivity in a totally subjective topic.

Fox urges us to find out what our audience is looking for and what attracts them to the site. She eloquently said that search is about simplicity and conciseness. Two things we forget amid screaming headlines and overpowering graphics. I personally think the absence of limited space on Web sites unleashes abundant creativity that at times gets confusing.

As we think of search, we may want to focus our efforts on finding out what I call the switch rate. How much times does the user use a particular search term and elect to use another if the earlier one fails. This world of search is mysterious and sometimes confusing but smart designers will think of the commonality that binds us as  human beings. So, let’s exploit our laziness using clever headlines, and keywords that get the maximum out of minimal effort, and keep searching.

Search and thou shalt find!

In an agile world, the American dream fights for survival

I met Fareed Zakaria at a conference in Toronto in 2009 where he was promoting his book, Post-American World and he discussed why it is critical that Americans look beyond their borders. In an year’s span, several things have happened. The rest of the world has progressed in leaps and bounds while Americans have been hit hard  by petty politics, mortgage fraud and rampant unemployment. In his latest article for Time, Zakaria clearly points out that the best way for America to get out of this mess is to invest heavily in research & development and create jobs that could be exported to the rest of the world.

Zakaria has a valid argument in seeking larger investments in R&D but he misses an important point. We are living in an agile world where speed and dexterity matter more and it’s not just Americans who are involved in cutting edge research. New, emerging economies are moving at a quick pace and educated, determined individuals are aspiring to make things happen. There is a renewed sense of confidence in India, Brazil and China and in coming years this confidence will be the biggest threat for America.