GSM World : Undermining confidence in search results
Presentation of search results undermines confidence in their quality.
GSM World is the website of the GSM Association, a world-wide trade body representing 620 GSM mobile operators in the development of global wireless networks.
The site has a lot of rich content that can be searched via the ‘site search’ panel on each page. Results for a word or phrase appear listed by “Confidence”. Users have the option to select “Subject” for an alternative set of results. Confidence results are ranked with a percentage valuation and a “higher confidence” or “lower confidence” icon (which can be clicked to see documents similar to the one shown). These icons are also used with the Subject results, but the percentage rating is not.
The dividing line between Higher and Lower Confidence differs according to the search and in one instance (“anti-trust”) some results rated 62 per cent were labelled “higher” while others equally rated were tagged “lower”.
GSM World has an efficient search engine in terms of the amount of matches it finds, but their presentation works to undermine user confidence in the quality of the results.
This happens on several levels. For a start, the term ‘confidence’ is sufficiently unusual in a search engine as to seem contrary and in need of some explanation: ‘relevance’ is both widely used and immediately understandable – what is gained by going against the grain? The simultaneous use of the two ‘confidence’ markings – percentage rating and higher/lower icon – introduces confusion, especially when the higher/lower dividing line appears to be a moveable goalpost.
Variation is also a feature of the number of matches found for the same word or phrase depending on whether the search is by Confidence or Subject. The latter turns up more results, presumably due to the often bizarre word groups that it searches for and shows at the head of each group result. For example, Group 3 for a Subject search on “membership” shows it to have looked for “8226/font/the/normal/&”.
Whatever the logic to the search process and results presentation, by compromising the feature’s helpfulness to users GSM World is ultimately undermining the usefulness to itself.http://www.gsmworld.com
First published on 11 March, 2004