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					Case Study
BBCi Search

Why search is not a technology problem


• What do I do?
   – I work for the BBC
       • Q -What’s your perception of what the BBC do?
   – I work in the New Media dept.
   – Information Architect?
   – Interference Architect!
• Previously:
   – Creative director at Sapient London
   – Creative director / launch designer of BBC News Online,
     London Times and Sunday Times
• Even further back
   – Wasn‟t an IA – I was just an „A‟
• What am I going to talk about?
   – Why search is not a technology problem.

                  02/02/2011                                   2
Some context

Search is strategic to us.

business imperative

Henley centre study: online life

             02/02/2011            5
Project context

The “BBCi” initiative

Pre-BBCi – “geocities”

             02/02/2011   7
User perception

           02/02/2011   8
BBCi perceptual model aimed for

           02/02/2011             9
technology /content context

• Existing, disparate search engines
  – Muscat
     • All around the site in different implementations,
       different user interfaces
     • Often “bolted-on”
  – Autonomy
     • News and Sport
        – heavy duty “research” driven use.
  – Not possible to search all BBC web content.

              02/02/2011                              10
Business advantages of shared search

• Shared development means we could
  invest in a long-term shared solution
• Research and resulting improvements
  shared by all
• Possible Licensing

           02/02/2011                     11
User advantages of shared search

• Able to search across all of the BBC for
  the first time
• One common experience at the core of
  any search within the BBC

            02/02/2011                       12
How we started

Project process

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Market research driven positioning

• We currently over-serve a 20-45 male
  techno-savvy audience
• Want to reach „newbies‟, mainstream
  consumers, especially young mums*
• Our market research told us they often
  used the search engine on their default
  homepage (as set by ISP)
• Or often “Ask Jeeves”
                                * moms ;-)
            02/02/2011                   15
persona driven design

• Introducing Gayle & Steve

           02/02/2011         16

Where the BBC
 and it’s brand
  can provide

                  02/02/2011   18


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Which turned into…


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early encouragement!!!

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Building taxonomy from user-centred seeds

• Limited time and resources to build a
• Focussed on analysing the most
  entered search terms from our
  logs as a starting point to give most

           02/02/2011                       25
Taxonomy tool

Taxonomy tool – top level screen
                          Top level of the hierarchical
                          tree structure taxonomy.
                          Shows all our subject areas
                          plus a test node for playing
                          around and a xyzxyz node
                          which reflects our most
                          popular query – nothing!
                           i.e. "". We couldn't have an entry
                          for nothing so we had to equate a
                          search for no string with
                          something to give us a
                          node. We then had to have that
                          node as top level node because
                          otherwise it would inherit context
                          from its parent.

            02/02/2011                                  27
Taxonomy tool – node level screen
                         Shows screen for “Question of
                         Sport” which has a parent -
                         BBC programmes - and
                         children - the presenter's
                         names. Each node also has urls
                         and synonyms attached.
                         Each url has a label
                         (title), a description, score
                         (crude method to indicate
                         which url is most relevant to
                         the node). Each url has the
                         possibility of having an expiry
                         date which can be reviewed
                         and the url can be archived
                         after expiring.

            02/02/2011                              28
Taxonomy tool – synonyms
                        Shows a node with numerous
                        urls attached and scored
                        Plus numerous synonyms
                        The children are all aspects of
                        WW2 – often these are based
                        on programme content on BBC
                        TV or radio (e.g. documentary
                        on Monte Cassino being
                        shown, therefore people likely
                        to enter as a search term)

           02/02/2011                             29
Taxonomy building process

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Taxonomy/editorial team

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UI design and testing

Round and round and round…

Iterative design development

• 5 rounds of user-testing and iterative
  design over a 2 month period
• We probably could have cut it down if we
  had done more research upfront
• We started getting „diminishing returns‟
• Avoiding Non-designer Kneejerk
  – Great to invite marketers and managers to
    tests, gets them bought into UCD brilliantly
  – Manage their „breakthroughs‟ – “sleep on it!”

            02/02/2011                         33
What we tested: paper prototypes

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What we tested

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What we tested

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What we tested

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What we were looking for

• The search is supposed to allow users to…

  – Zoom in (refine search)
  – Step sideways (to another BBC content area
  – Zoom out (widen to BBCi or Web scope)

  Do users understand these options? Can they
  navigate through them? Do they want them?

             02/02/2011                         38
Key findings

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Key findings
“Best links” area

The title was clear. The www icon was better. But still not perfect.

               “A site that's not to do with the
               BBC. Not run by them.
               It would be nice to see the whole

                                              User no. 4 , Pippa

                  02/02/2011                                       40
Key findings
“Best links” area

The position of the icons confused one user
               “Don't know what they are doing there.
               You'd expect to just click on the words on
               the left and get what you want.
               Is it just a link to return to the BBC

                                                User no. 4 , Pippa

                   02/02/2011                                        41
Key findings
Zooming in

Some users understood that searching is a

               “Finding the right search word is very
               frustrating. I think one thing, but the
               computer thinks differently.”

                                              User no. 4 , Pippa

                  02/02/2011                                       42
Key findings
Zooming in

…going from general to specific.

               “I'd expect to be asked to be more
               specific. It would prompt you type in
               more words -- recipes? flowers? boat
               show? Whatever…”

                                            User no. 5, Laura

                  02/02/2011                                    43
Key findings
Zooming in

So encourage dialogue: be polite and positive, however general the
initial query was

               “It would need to make you feel
               that you got it right, even though
               you weren't specific enough.
               It should make you feel you're on
               the right track.”

                                             User no. 2 , Gillian

                  02/02/2011                                        44
Key findings
Zooming in or stepping sideways?

• Users tended to view the “specific sections” links as a way to zoom in.
• They thought about the links in that section in terms of their search
  domain, not in terms of BBC organisational structure.
• They don‟t know anything much about BBC organisational structure.

                 “See all the regions -- all the
                 different divisions they have.
                 Listed A-Z... Regions of
                 Northern Ireland”

                                                 User no. 1, Fred

                   02/02/2011                                             45
Key findings
Zooming in or stepping sideways?

The “specific section links” area didn‟t seem specific enough…

         “I'm normally quite rushed on the web. I haven't
         got time to concentrate. So the specifics section
         should say all the main headings for the subject
         (Vikings). Boats, gods, battles, food…
         The specifics section would not help you out. It
         doesn't tell you that it can look for specific

                                             User no. 3 , Emma

                  02/02/2011                                     46
Key findings
Stepping sideways

The planet of the apes search worked best
because the sideways steps (film, cult, news)
clearly refined the search.

               “You'd get used to that idea of the

                                             User no. 3 , Emma

                  02/02/2011                                     47
Key findings
Zooming out

Users can‟t articulate what a search engine does
but they know what to expect when they see the

               “Oh! I didn't think it as a search
               engine. Yes I know I said it would
               search the web. But I didn't click!”

                                              User no. 2 , Gillian

                  02/02/2011                                         48

Searching across all the BBC

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Searching just BBC News

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Searching the UK Web

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More Lou!

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lessons learnt... post-live assessment

• Marketing campaign starts April 20th
• Started a V1.5 testing and design blitz in
  early February
• 2 weeks, 3 user-tests with 2 days to
  iterate design in-between each!

            02/02/2011                     54

       02/02/2011   55

•   Whole team contributed to the design.
•   Posted out new designs every evening
•   Covered walls
•   Fashion!
    – Operating system „trends‟ getting more

              02/02/2011                       56
What we learnt from the post-live testing

• People did NOT see the best links!!!
  – All that effort, all the value… useless if UI hides
• Numbering is a curse
  – It was contributing to skipping the good stuff.
• “Relevance” is irrelevant
• People loved the tabs once they found them.
  – But they only found them on the 3rd or 4th visit.

             02/02/2011                           57
Design lessons

• The tyranny of the search engine idiom
• Migrate habits
• Get team to collaborate on use-models
  early – generates understanding early
  – Gives whole team something to go back and
    question fundamentals usefully
• The whole team and the business
  understands where the value is
  – The taxonomy
  – The human factor

            02/02/2011                      58

My Soylent Green Moment…

  Oh my
Search IS

          02/02/2011       60


Hope it was useful/interesting…


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