This is a guest post from my good friend Melanie from ProWebs, I did a guest post on her blog a few months ago and she is returning the favour! Today's post is on Wikia Search a subject that is hot at the moment but this I believe is the first time that its been through an 11yr olds user testing along with 9 other "normal" users.
Wikia Search has finally been released in an very apparent Alpha state of development. This new search platform boasting a "transparent algorithm", is the open source concept search engine of Jimmy Wales. I guess with the copious success of Wikipedia, we most likely had some very high expectations for Wikia Search.
I don’t expect the release has gone as well as expected by Jimmy, as he has publicly admitted he is “aware that the quality of the search results is low”. So this begs the question, why would a business savvy guy like Jimmy Wales release a product that is clearly not even on board yet? Was he so intimidated by all the "smack talk" he had proliferated during Wikia Search’s earlier development. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jimmy, he is a free thinking and rebellious entrepreneur, who can in fact "think outside the box", but has his desire to "put up or shut up" damaged our image of him?
I’m not going to go out of my way to tear down Wikia Search, as it is already very clear that in its current state… It sucks. So let’s prepare a Wikia Search wish list for development from a users prospective using my small but diverse group of chronic searchers.
- When we search for the US, or Ohio…That’s what we want. Clearly mixing the results on page one for unrelated content from a different country is not going to make us happy.
- We are going to need descriptions for all/most pages, even ones without a description tag.
- We like the idea of voting up and contributing content, but what about the spam that will inevitably result?
- When we search for say, "travel destinations" we would like to find some actual places to visit before we are sold affiliate and link farms.
- If we search for "mcdonalds akron ohio", we might be already peeved about cold fries and probably not looking for the Greater Akron Aquarium Society…. Especially as the only result!
- We really like the community feel of the pages and options, especially the skin changer… But we still came to the site looking for something.
- We don’t understand or care what a "transparent algorithm" is.
- We really think it’s not so transparent when Google doesn’t make page 1 for the query "search engine", even Yahoo displays Google on page one…Hmmmm
- We would like to see more results in the language we are using to search with, for sure.
- We are really disappointed, as we think Jimmy is cool (Tims note – We do?) and were expecting better launch grade usability after all the hype.
I must say in my little test group, my 11 year old daughter was appalled to find that the query "VMK" did not produce her favourite play place on the net, Virtual Magic Kingdom. At this point, she fell a little of target and was busted trading treasures on VMK instead of researching… She was apparently worried, they had closed her little virtual play world and Goggled it to make sure she still had her precious "stuff" in her characters!
So to Jimmy and the Wikia Search team, we like the concept (Tim – Hmmm), but if we can’t use it you will likely fight a very uphill battle to ever win us back. Remember, think like a searcher….
You can get in touch with Melanie via comments below or via the contact form and I will pass them on. Thanks Melanie and your testers!