Daimler : Back to the future in search

Daimler's media site offers Boolean operators to improve search results.

The feature

Daimler's corporate site has a separate Global Media Site, reached from the Press link in the primary menu. This has a large database of assets that include press releases, pictures, videos and press kits. A 'detailed search' option allows these filters to be selected. The search field (on the English site) also has this in it: 'Conjunction (AND): Term 1 Term 2. Disjunction (OR): Term 1 OR Term 2. Negation (NOT): -Term'. This suggests that Boolean operators will work  - use 'and', 'or', or 'not' to refine the search. A further filter box on the results page allows a date range to chosen, or another term added.
A test search for 'zetsche and truck and hybrid and speech' brings up nine documents, one of which was a speech by the chairman Dr Zetscher that looked at the future of electric cars and trucks. 'Formula 1 and china' shows 74 documents and 88 pictures, most of which are of the Chinese grand prix. However 'China not Formula 1' interprets 'not' as 'notiert':  German for 'notes'. It is necessary to write 'China - Formula 1' to find results that exclude motor racing.

The takeaway

There was a time when Boolean operators were commonplace in searches. They were a librarian's tool. No one knew how to do it better – until, that is, Google taught us to write in any question we liked. But anyone who uses internal search engines knows they will struggle hopelessly to match Google – unless they use Google technology (which is to be denied to them). So Daimler has been brave in throwing away fashion and reintroducing Boolean operators. Our tests showed that when used carefully, they can quickly zoom in on results that might otherwise never be found. 
There are two problems. First, the need to use a 'minus' sign instead of 'not' means that anyone used to Boolean operators is likely to be confused. Second – linked to this – there is insufficient explanation of this: indeed the tiny '-' in the search field is likely to be missed. This is just part of a lack of explanation – a generation of users is arriving that has no clue what a Boolean operator is. A simple explanation, with some examples, would make all the difference.
First published 11 April, 2018
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