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Evolving Search - User Considerations

August 2000
Justin Hall

Scanning the search logs from May to July 2000,
Here's what I learned:

By and large people are using the search engine to search for specific games, with a few notable exceptions.

People want game resources for non-specific games.
"cheats" is the number four search request on our site (even without counting stuff like "nintendo 64 cheats" or "game shark codes psx")
"codes" is number eleven
"downloads" is thirty-one
"games" is thirty-four
"demos" is forty-ninth
"walkthrough" is 163rd

People want help
"how do i change my graphic"
"how to change password"
"register new login name"
"account" and "login"

People want message boards
Reading search logs, it seems as though fully a fifth of the searches performed by registered users are for message boards.
Generic searches for "message board[s]" rank 108, not including stuff like "psx message boards" or "the anime channel"
There are hundreds of searches for clans and their message boards. Searching "rat clan" on does nothing - searching for it in the message boards yeilds a clan message board.

People want random stuff
"psx golf games"
"tile games for mac"
"upcoming games"
"firing squad"
"playboy mansion"

We have the content these people are seeking. But our search results are the bare minimum:

"Didn't find what you're looking for? Search again:"


These will help users without requiring additional work on the structure of the site. Consider these short term solutions until more powerful models of search can be explored.
More responsive "No Results" page
Include a search box, a message board search box, and a list of the top ten searches (see asdfjkl search results example page)

More special cases:
For these types of data where people are searching and we don't have a way to give them results in the immediate future of the site, we should return special case pages (see Cheats results sample page)
Message Boards
If these words appear in a search request, the search request should be routed through the Message Board search: clan, board, messageboard, message board, discussion, chat, community, communities
If these words appear in a search request, the search request should be routed to the site FAQ - help, how [as the first word], profile, login, account,password, delete, deleting
Besides "Thresh" (which is popular) there are a number of searches for "Hodgson" "Justin Hall" "Dan Shoe Hsu" - we could route those searches to staff bio pages, or even better, work on a way that users can find features and news articles by author (like

More powerful/flexible search results
Sort game title, platform, release date and user rating into columns that can be sorted (see Tomb Raider example page)

In-Line User Search Modifications:
Users are trying to focus their searches. If a game name appears with a platform or platform abbreviation, we should bring the user to that specific game page under that specific platform. Example, "deus ex pc" or "pc warcraft 3" (right now a search for "deus ex pc" returns "Sorry no results for 'deus ex pc'")
If there are multiple results, limit the search to the platform specified - "tony hawk psx," "final fantasy pc" or "mario n64"
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