"There's no shortage of problems with search today," says Peter Morville at the end of Search Patterns, his most recent book. Throughout the book, Morville chronicles the challenges of search and effectively communicates the best practices of building usable search experiences. The book more than adequately accomplishes it's stated goal: to foster greater cross-disciplinary collaboration by increasing search literacy.
In the preface Morville sets out to tear down the walls between disciplines, and at this he succeeds. From user psychology to technical considerations to the specific components of the user interface, Search Patterns has something for everyone involved in implementing search.
The first two chapters lay the groundwork for the rest of the book, discussing both why people search and the individual components that make up search. The book is in full swing by chapter three where Morville discusses user behavior, elements of interaction, and -- my personal favourite -- the principles of design.
In talking about design principles, Morville describes search both as a conversation and a jazz-like improvisation. He urges the architect to make search an easy, simple process to initiate, followed by a progressively more sophisticated toolkit that enables users to iteratively refine their query. He argues for a no-suprises approach to the user interface in which valuable options are highly visible and elements of interaction are easily predictable. Many of the principles are applicable to a much broader context than search alone, but that only stregthens their merit.
The real heart of the book is chapter four, which looks at 10 design patterns over 50 pages. It considers the obvious patterns -- autocomplete, faceted navigation, advanced search -- as well as more disparate groupings like federated search and personalization. The design patterns are complimented by a wealth of thought-provoking examples throughout the book, with an especially high concentration of desktop, mobile, and even kiosk visuals in chapter five.
Search Patterns is a must-read for everyone collaborating on a search application. It will give your team of designers, engineers, and business stakeholders a common vocabularly and greater awareness of the many sides of search.
Morville ends the book -- as I will end this review -- by urging the reader to get to work on making search better: "For every unsolved problem," he says, "there are countless instances in which we know the solution, but nobody has bothered to implement it. Discipline and attention to detail would go a long way toward improving the world of search."
You should get started by reading this book.