OpenTable Null Search Can Be Improved

In an earlier post, I wrote about null search results as they pertain to a couple of news sites. Today, I noticed a sub-optimal user experience in the OpenTable iPhone app when I searched for a restaurant that was not found. Here is what I saw:

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While it does make sense, to a point, that restaurants that are not part of the OpenTable network be omitted from the search results, this is certainly a missed opportunity and can be improved. Before outlining a different user experience, lets take a quick look at what the Yelp app shows for this restaurant:

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In the Yelp search results, we are able to find the restaurant we’re looking for along with a list of other restaurants that are similar. Furthermore, in the Yelp restaurant page, we see some important pieces of information pertaining to the restaurant. And this leads us back to how OpenTable can improve their user experience.

At the very least, they should have a record of the restaurant and some important information pertaining to the restaurant i.e. address and phone number. With the phone number, the user will have the option to Call (similar to Yelp above) and get in direct contact with the restaurant in order to make the reservation.

Looking beyond the restaurant information, another feature that may be beneficial is to add a list of several restaurants (that are in the OpenTable network!) that would be suggested to the user instead. With the current user experience, the user is stuck, can’t make progress with the restaurant they’re looking for, nor are they pointed toward the direction of another comparable restaurant.

Yahoo Finance iPhone Stocks App Has Irrelevant News Suggestions

I’ve noticed a lot of low quality results when looking at the news article feed for stocks in the Yahoo Finance iPhone Stocks App. It seems that for a given stock, for example eBay, the app is suggesting any article that even has a mention of eBay.

Recently, I’ve been noticing a lot of articles that are relevant for Yahoo Inc., but not eBay. The reason is fairly obvious: the current CEO of Yahoo Inc., used to be an employee of eBay Inc. As such, many online articles about Yahoo point out the fact that Scott Thompson used to work for eBay.

That being said, the App can be a little smarter in deciding which articles to show. For example, it can analyze the click through rate of a given article that shows up both for eBay and Yahoo — and most likely for these types of articles, users viewing the Yahoo ticker symbol are going to be more likely to click through on the article as it’s more relevant to them. Once that occurs, the same articles should move down the search rankings when they are in the eBay stock ticker news view.

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