Can’t it just be like Google?

I often get frustrated by those who think Google is the greatest search engine that ever parsed. Don’t get me wrong – I like Google, I use Google, I employ it as a verb. But if I hit the search button and get wonky results, I recognize that they are wonky and am not afraid to blame Google. (Full disclosure: I have a library science background which I’d like to think has made me into a pretty good searcher, so I will usually try a few different queries before I point the finger at the machine.)

On most of our consulting engagements, at least one person will say “I want our search to be more like Google.” I have a few problems with this kind of statement. Partly it’s that most folks aren’t terribly critical when it comes to evaluating the relevance of Google results. It’s what we know, it’s what we’re used to. We don’t mind that Wikipedia is almost always the first result on any query – many might find that a “feature”.  We’re generally happy to take whatever shows up in those top 10 results and roll with it regardless of what it is, mostly because we can’t know everything that is out there so we trust Google to filter it for us. We satisfice (yes, it’s Wikipedia, joke intended)

Take these same folks and plunk them in front of their enterprise search and ask whether the top ten results are usually “good enough”… Most will answer no. Why? Because we have a better idea of what information is out there and what would make for a good result. Continue reading