Better Content Discovery

Tim Tutt
Tim Tutt
Mar 27, 2015 · 3 min read

Killing search. Enabling Discovery

Search needs to die.

There. I said it. The statement really isn’t as dramatic as it sounds.

The fact of the matter is users deserve a better experience for discovering content. Discovery of content is key. There is too much data out there for users to know what to search for. They need to be able to find content without knowing what they’re looking for. They need, instead, for content to find them.

This is not a particularly new concept. In fact, the ways users discover content has been evolving over the last 10 years. Take faceted search for example. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept take a look at this screenshot from Amazon.com:

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The left side navigation pane provides you with a number of facets to filter your result set. Previously, I selected a facet that displayed TVs above $3,000. Without having to know what options I have available ahead of time, I can now refine to a specific brand, screen type, or display type. As you further refine, the facets alone provide information about the content available to be discovered.

This type of discovery is common-place when it comes to e-commerce websites, but the same concepts apply when thinking about movies, news articles, etc… Why is this functionality lacking outside of e-commerce? Imagine if this capability existed within G-mail. Talk about a new way to explore your mail.

Faceted navigation is not the only way to enable discovery. Several years ago, Facebook unveiled Graph Search. This is what I consider to be a game changer. If you’re not sure what exactly I’m talking about, take a look at this:

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Few things — Facebook Graph Search allows you to discover information about people, things, and places based on their connections to you and other entities. It even allows you to do combination searches… So I can look for friends of mine who went to Virginia Tech and live in San Fransico — When I run this search, two of my friends that current work at Facebook are returned ironically.

The same concept is used to push products to you by many e-commerce websites. Think about the last time you visited Amazon.com. It told you that you might be interested in some product because of your prior search history or purchases and items that were bought by other individuals that searched for and bought the same things.

One of my favorite examples of this is — Facebook telling a friend of mine that he might know a girl that he met at the top of some random mountain on another continent. Never had to search for her. Facebook, just pushed that to him based on him checking in to a location around the same time the girl checked into that same location.

These are the types of experiences that should be built into any application (web, mobile, or other) that has content available for users. A user should never have to actually know what they are looking for. Every tool we develop should provide better features for discovery rather than search. This applies across all device platforms.

We spend so much time designing better user experiences for generating content, but spend very little time on the content discovery problem. It is time to change that. Kill search. Enable discovery.

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