Sunday, August 9, 2009

Visual Search

Recently I started reading Ambient Findability by Peter Morville. So far it is a an excellent read on information architecture and wayfinding. ( As I read the book, it strikes me how utterly dependent we have become on text and knowing the right words or combination of words to find what we are searching for when interacting with the web. We have all experienced this, we are searching from something and we find very little but later come to realize that we did not have the best keyword to yield the results we were searching for. If we focus on creating the best user experience possible, this will most likely include the ability for users to search items with more than just the perfect keywords or through a winding path of linked ideas. What about searching through key images or visual represetations of our desired topic? I conducted a search (using text of course) and found the following link with terrific references to visual search engines available today.

After quickly finding this page, I sit with the question, why are these visual search engines not in the mainstream search options? Google, the Godfather of search engines has incorporated visual aids such as the Wonder Wheel and Timeline to assist searchers with visual and semantic information but they have not created anything yet that is similar to the visual search engines on this page.

Happy searching!


  1. I have seen some of the visual search engines you listed. I remember some have been around for sometime now. You brought a good question why these types of search engine is not readily available. If you think about it, human learn how the visual search engine would display. It shows you a connection to other related topics. We associate an idea or thing to others and associate context to those to create long-term memory. I don’t have answer to why these things are not available in Google. Is it because we “read” left to right and “look” top to bottom?

    Informatics and information aesthetics will be even more interesting as technology advances. Look at the recent SIGGRAPH 2009 showcase.

    I read recently about semantic search engine called truenum. The technology changes static numbers into more rich/dynamic numbers that provides more meanings.

  2. In addition to his books, Peter Morville's Semantic Studios has some great Information Architecture resources.

    Regarding visual search, I try them every so often but am continuously disappointed in their usability. Perhaps I'm just used to linear listings of text-based search results, but I'm much less efficient at scanning grids and other arrangements of search results. Until there is a compelling reason to change, I'll stick with what works.

  3. I think there are places where visual search could help, for example, when searching for graphics or icons. It frustrates me when I'm searching by keywords, and trying to guess how someone is sorting these visual images, when really I want to see the different options, and then click into different areas.

    For example, if I searched flowers, but I want a particular style, showing the flowers by style, and I could search through those would be much more efficient.


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