Search Tips & Our Mini

As previously mentioned, we’ve been tuning our Google Mini the last few weeks. Hopefully you’re getting a much better search experience. But to make sure you are, starting yesterday, when you do a search on our search server, you’ll find a blue bar at the top. If you do a search on our site and don’t find what you’re looking for, click the link in the blue bar and let us know! I’ll do my best to try to figure out what went wrong.Thanks Jace Smith for the suggestion to make a feedback form in the first place!

The Google mini is also going to provide us with lots of interesting search statistics. While it’s too early to look at them now, it’s not too early to talk about how we’re going to use these statistics to make a better website. Every week we pull a list of the 100 must commonly searched for keywords and phrases. Over time, we’re going to look for trends and try to learn what people can’t easily find on the website. So, if “Bike Lane” keeps showing up, we’ll know that we’re not doing a very good job of making “Bike Lane” easily findable on the homepage, and we’ll try to fix that.

We’ll also be using these statistics to improve the actual results of the search. For example, if we notice that people keep searching for “nuring”, we’ll tell the Google Mini to search for “nursing” instead. Or if a department changes it’s name, and people keep searching for the old name, we can tell the Mini to search the new name and save lots of confusion.

I should also note that although I’m trying to make the mini work as awesome as I can, I can’t control what Google does. So when you search on google.com, that has nothing to do with our search engine, and there’s only so much I can do to improve your results. That leads us to Search Engine Optimization, which is much too big of a topic for this post.

2 thoughts on “Search Tips & Our Mini

  1. Wow–congratulations! I typed “website redesign” in an attempt to re-find your blog, and it was second on the results list!

    Is this a place where we could leave suggestions? If so, I will bookmark it. I frequently have trouble finding something on Lane’s site, either searching for myself or on behalf of a student, and the experience ends with mere frustration–if I could report the experience to someone who might be able to address it in future, my experience would end with a sense of accomplishment and hope.

    For example (in case your answer is yes to the above question is yes): During Spring Inservice, I was in my office trying to find times/places for the breakout sessions, and failed. I found the conference itself on the events calendar, but not the details I needed. Often when I’m searching for something like that, I get some previous version from some previous year: is there a way to make results chronologically preferred? Terminology is also in play: I think I searched for various combinations of Spring, Inservice, In-Service, In Service, Conference, and 2012. Eventually, I gave up and went over to CML, where I found a yellow agenda sheet on the floor.

    Aside from the search function, I think organization and accessibility could use some TLC. I would like to see the Quick Links (to so many important destinations) come out of drag-down into an actual menu bar. And while I’m on that subject, does anybody else have trouble deciding between “Departments and Services” and “Classes and Programs”? There’s a lot of overlap in that terminology, and even with years of familiarity, I find myself often having to try both places before I find what I’m after.

    Thanks for what I know must be a monumental effort with this redesign! It is much needed, and will be appreciated accordingly.

    P.S. As financial aid rules are changing dramatically and without much notice, I have at least one or two students in my office in tears every week (and I only teach part-time!) because they’ve gotten a suspension letter, and been sandbagged by some rule that might have been in the fine print somewhere, but that they were not really advised about adequately, in advance. I wonder if a prominent link on Lane’s main page to such rules might help avoid what I fear will be a rolling disaster as students come up against (for example) credit limits, are unable to complete, and then find themselves saddled with debt that they will carry with them to the grave. We have an ethical responsibility to warn students as best we can, and I wonder if that might be carried out as early in the interface as our main page. I would put some kind of warning label on the link like “Important rules and changes you need to know about financial aid” (or something) and make it prominent, in big red letters. I know that information must be buried somewhere in the main-page links under student announcements, but that’s my point: we need to un-bury it.

    • Thanks for all the feedback!

      This blog is absolutely a place to leave feedback! You can also leave feedback for specific searches on the actual search page – just click on the link in the blue bar at top. And please provide all the feedback you can! We’ve already been able to correct a few recurring problems.

      I’ll look into searching for inservice. Expect an email from me soon!

      Organization and accessibility need more than just a little TLC! There’s actually a whole group of people doing research into how to help people find information on the website better. We’re not rolling out any of those changes yet, but believe me, they’re coming. But there’s one part I want to highlight for you now – there will be a menu with many of the quick links brought into it. This blog post has some excellent examples.