Chapter 9. Search Systems

The ultimate search engine would basically understand everything in the world, and it would always give you the right thing. And we’re a long, long ways from that.

Larry Page

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • Determining whether your product needs a search system

  • The basic anatomy of a search system

  • What to make searchable

  • A basic understanding of retrieval algorithms

  • How to present retrieval results

  • Search interface design

  • Where to learn more

Chapter 8 helped you understand how to create the best navigation system possible for your information environment. This chapter describes another form of finding information: searching. Searching (and more broadly, information retrieval) is an expansive, challenging, and well-established field, and we can only scratch the surface here. We’ll limit our discussion to what makes up a search system, when to implement search systems, and some practical advice on how to design a search interface and display search results.

This chapter often uses examples of search systems that allow you to search various different types of information environments, ranging from the entire Web to mobile phone apps. Although these tools tend to index a very broad collection of content, it’s nonetheless extremely useful to study them.

Does Your Product Need Search?

Before we delve into search systems, we need to make a point: think twice before you make your product searchable.

Your information environment should, of course, ...

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