In a fairly weird twist of research funding, a market research firm and AutoByTel have released a search study & press release hyping a new automotive vertical “search engine”, with study details presented very loosely in a video on AutoByTel’s PR page (QT Video). The results describe widespread user experience with failed search sessions in which the user tried really hard.
While it’s certainly true that a large number of searches fail, in many of these cases, the user goes on about their day. This study focuses on experiences where the user is highly motivated and continues to try and achieve information gain unsuccessfully. The specific type of personalization appropriate here is actually “contextualizaton”, or just in time personalization that is as often as not irrelevant following the session.
A great search engine, or even search engine interface, would facilitate cumulative understanding of user intent across the session in the retrieval process and help users issue more effectively consume results. Vertical search engines simplify the problem and correspondingly severely reduce the range of needs that can be addressed.
Oiy, this post is far from blogging on peer reviewed research. If you’d like to learn something more real about search behavior, take a look at a recent MSR study exposing how advanced searchers differ (across Yahoo, Google, and MSN) from non-advanced users as measured by user of advanced search syntax:
White R and Morris D. Investigating the Querying and Browsing Behavior of Advanced Search Engine Users. Proceedings of ACM SIGIR 2007, July 2007.