FB iPhone App Bug: Search Doesn’t Remember What You Like

Noticed a strange bug when searching for a business page on the Facebook iPhone App. Even thought I had previously liked the business, the search results still displayed a hollowed out thumbs-up icon that indicates I have not yet liked the business. Here’s how to reproduce the bug.

1. Start with a Facebook Page you’ve already visited and liked. Search for this Page in the iPhone app:

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2. Just in case you haven’t liked it yet, double check, and press down on the empty thumbs-up icon to like the page again:

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3. Visit the page and confirm that you have liked the page:

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4. Touch the top level menu to search again. Here you will see your previous search query correctly displayed in the liked state:

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5. Then, clear out the search box:

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6. Finally, search for the same page again. Now, you will see the page displayed again, but it is displayed incorrectly as if it is not in the liked state.

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An Improvement to Hotels.com Search Filtering

When searching for hotels, a common search filter is star rating. As a user, you may be interested in finding hotels that are either 2 stars or 3 stars – no worse or better. Recently, I noticed that Hotels.com does not provide this functionality. Let’s take a look at a sample search:

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At this point, my expectation is to be able to check off one or more of the star ratings in the left hand column. However, I was unpleasantly surprised to see that after checking off one of the options, the others were grayed out:

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Ideally, Hotels.com should allow the user to narrow down to more than one rating level for any given search. A similar site that does allow users to view a list filtered to more than one star rating is Kayak:

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Safari, Google, and Browser Search

Noticed an interesting change from Safari 5 to Safari 6 in OS X. In the Safari 5 header, there are two text entry modules: one for the URL, and another for a search query.

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In the upgrade to Safari 6, the two separate fields have been combined into one that serves as both the URL entry as well as the search module:

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Some things that come to mind:

1. Looking back at the history of the internet over the last 20 years, there was a moment where Search got really big. What I mean by this is we reached a point where the majority of users who came to the internet initiated their session by searching for something. Very recently, say in the last 3 years, with the boom of mobile apps, there has been a shift away from search as the starting post and more toward apps as the starting post for the user. What I found interesting is that this browser change pushes the user just slightly back toward the direction of search as a starting point.

2. Apple vs. Google. It’s an open secret that Steve Jobs was not particularly fond of Google toward the tail end of his time at Apple. While initially Apple and Google had some partnerships i.e. Google Maps and YouTube being two of the very first native apps on the iPhone, the relationship between the two companies went sour with the heavy investment of Google into Android. Just recently Apple has received a lot of negative attention by creating their own version of Maps for iOS instead of using the already beloved Google Maps app. So in this angle, it is very strange to see Safari, an Apple product, make it much easier for the user to use Google.

3. Web vs. Mobile. While this change has been incorporated into the web version of Safari, the iOS version of Safari remains the same with two separate fields. This is interesting for two reasons: (1) Apple has created an inconsistent user experience across different platforms OS X vs. iOS and (2) It is strange to see two separate fields in the UX for the platform with extremely limited screen real estate. If anything, one could make the case that there’s more justification in the web flow to have two separate entry fields due to an incredibly wider screen than a mobile view which has a much smaller screen width.

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Twitter Home Page Discourages Search

Twitter has cemented itself as the platform in which the greatest amount of publicly viewable micro-posts (or just posts in general) exist. One cool aspect of this seemingly infinite supply of real-time user content is the ability to search for real-time tweets reacting to a recent event. So while Google can serve as (or attempt to) the search engine for the entire Internet, Twitter can serve as the search engine of worldwide real-time reactions to a current event.

The interesting thing about this amazing functionality is that the use of this search feature is not supported from the home page: www.twitter.com. Here’s what the home page looks like as of today:

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Amazingly, there is no search bar at all in the page. Not in a prominent location in the center, nor is it on the header. The only reason one comes to know about the search bar in the first place is via it’s existence on a specific user’s profile page, such as:

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So why is Twitter doing this? Some possibilities:

1. Product miss. They don’t know that offering this functionality on their home page would lead to more user engagement and the opportunity to acquire non-users and convert them to new users.

2. They are doing this deliberately. The intention is to point existing users to signing into the home page, and for new users to sign up. These two user actions are critical and having a search bar (large or small) would lead to a distraction for an existing user or for a new user.

News Null Search Results: Yahoo vs. Google

One subtle, yet important, aspect of search is how a search engine handles null search results. This is the use case when the search engine cannot find anything relevant to the user’s search query. The ability to handle this use case is important for traditional search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), vertical search (i.e. Yahoo News or Google News), or even an e-commerce site such as eBay or Amazon. 

I ran a search query in Yahoo News that led to zero results being returned. So I tried the exact same query in Google News and saw plenty of results. 

Yahoo News: 

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Google News:

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So what’s going on here? I know people prefer Google search to Yahoo search and algorithmically, one could make the case that it has a smarter search “brain”. But for one site to have plenty of results and for another to not have any results is probably not a deficiency in the search “brain” but rather the product choices for the Yahoo news search engine. 

Perhaps the Yahoo news search is looking for an exact match of all three search terms consecutively in an article i.e. “mega millions tragedy”. Perhaps Google news search is more loose and simply searches for articles that contain at least one instance of all three words, or even more loosely at least one instance of one of the search terms. 

The point is, in the case of null search results, the product is better served trying to find a partial match for the user instead of admitting defeat and returning nothing.