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Life Needs a Search Function

I was doing some Christmas shopping today in an actual physical store (did you know that Amazon.com won’t send everything you want to New Zealand? My sister will know when, along about Valentine’s day, she gets her Christmas presents that I had to physically buy and mail).

It seemed poorly designed. I wanted Ben Harper, and I saw a bin marked “H” and looked for him –nope. You have to go to the section marked “Rock” first and then to the bin marked “H.” And what about his album with the Blind Boys of Alabama? Would that be in “Blues” or “Gospel” or something? Under “B”?

And when I was looking for a DVD for the family, for some odd reason there wasn’t a section for teenagers, let alone recent DVDs (the ones that might not have made it to New Zealand yet), suitable for teens to watch with their parents.

What’s up with that?

I’m not really joking at all. I walked in there looking for a family movie, a game, and a Ben Harper CD, and I sort of stood in a likely-looking section, expecting that there would be a grouping of suitable items in a handy place, maybe not in the upper left hand corner, but something like that, and wishing that there was a search function.

You may think the moral of this story is that I spend too much of my time in cyberspace, but I think the moral really is that life needs a search function.

Did you see “Click,” the film in which Adam Sandler had a sort of TV remote control for his life, with negative consequences?

They got it wrong. We don’t need TV remotes. We need a search function for life.

Search is wonderful. Earlier in the day, I had a client for whom I’d written ten pages of highly repetitive stuff email me that, oops, they didn’t supply packing materials after all. I just used “find” on the document, and got rid of all those offers of packing materials. In the afternoon I had a request for some meta language from a designer, and I quickly searched a month’s worth of previous emails and found what he needed. Later on, I got all excited about a client’s new virtual magazine application that makes periodicals searchable in a new and snazzy way. At dinner time, when I noticed that I was still at the computer and hadn’t even thought about what I was going to feed my kids, I did a quick look in my food supplies(well-designed, of course)and a search using all the ingredients I’d come up with. Google had some great ideas for me, and dinner is even now in the oven.

Now, it’s every bit as good to have some nice human being around to help you. I’d have accepted help from a knowledgeable sales clerk at the store. A suggestion from my husband for what the black beans and tomatoes could turn into would have worked just as well as the internet. Search is mostly just for when you don’t have any humans around.

At your website, for example.

So have a look, as you’re examining your digital shop and thinking what you might want to do with it next year. How’s the search function?


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