A few weeks ago I spent the morning with Gary Flake, who heads up Yahoo’s R&D efforts (Yahoo Labs). He’s got some pretty cool stuff in the works over there, though most of it is still in the “I could tell you but then my publisher would kill me” category. One thing he did say which stuck with me had to do with search interface issues – how to solve that intractable problem of figuring out what the user wants, without forcing that user to jump through UI hoops all day. “We just need one more datapoint,” Flake said, referring to the original query as the first datapoint. “Just one more interface element to make search better.” The problem, of course, is depending on a million factors, that second input might be any number of things, from a “Did you mean…?” clustering question to flicking on a personalization tool that filters results through your zip code, Amazon purchase patterns, search history, social network…etc.
Anyway, this all came up when I saw this eMarketer report today, proving at least the trends are heading – a bit – toward complication. It shows, as has been the case for the past year or so, that searches are getting more complicated – the percentage of searches that have just one word in them is declining, and the percentage of multi-word searches is ever-so-slowly increasing. The graf at the bottom of this post is last year, at the top, this year.