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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

Search Engine Implementation Notes Durable Link to this BLOG
Simple Searches & Advanced Searches

Some of you might know this: You can specify several additional parameters while searching Google.
Eg: Specifying Elephant Site:www.kamat.com will search for all occurrences of Elephant on this site.

If one were to call these options as advanced features, then you have to call the guided search as the "Simple Search" right? But Google calls it the "Advanced Search"!!

A friend of mine whom I admire greatly, felt that a system that holds your hand must be called a simple system, and system that allows powerful permutations based on human intelligence is a complex or an advanced system. So a point & click system would be a simple interface, whereas a Unix shell would be an advanced interface. By the same logic,  he felt that the naming of the two is reversed in most search systems. We argued for a while, with me claiming one textbox search of Google is indeed perceived as simple. But you know, he is right. The Advanced Search as most people call them, where you can specify dates, categories, and other options, must indeed be called a Simple or Guided Search.

So, here's a rare suggestion for user-interface improvement to Google: Rename your "Advanced Search" as "Guided Search".

One Search Engine Vs. Many Search Engines

This is another dilemma Web designers of large websites are always against. "If Google can search the whole world with one search box, why are you implementing so many Search Engines?" -- they are asked. On Kamat.com alone, there are five search engines (full text search, PICTURESearch, BLOGSearch, TOCSearch, and GlossarySearch). Does a personal site need so many search engines?!

Perhaps not, but consider this. You are at a library looking for information on, say, Alzheimer's disease. The type of resource that you would be interested very much has to do with the scope of your interest. Are you a doctor? a student? a relative? are you looking for a book?, a journal?, a newsletter?, a database of citations?, news of the latest breakthroughs?, all of them? how much time you've got? And no, Google cannot make that determination for you, you must do it yourself.  Consider that you are trying to locate a customer record, you are not interested in  the customer's home page at that time. This is the reason why there are so many search engines. Hence, in a library, continuing my example, there's the search facility for the books, a search for subscribed journals, a search for non-subscribed journals available via Intra-Library loan, a search for newspapers and newsletters, a search engine for citations (known as database in the library industry), a search engine for abstracts etc.

Of course, there will be one day where you will be able to specify:
 "Alzheimer's disease" type:Newsletters+NewsPapers-Books+Conference Proceedings date:after 2002 
to get the most recent breakthroughs about Alzheimer's disease. And that will not be Simple search, but a very Advanced one!


(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Friday, October 18, 2002
Last Modified: 10/18/2002

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