Tech Tips – March 2016

goldilocks-three-bears--large-msg-131924007421Who remembers the fairy tale about Goldilocks and the three bears? Raise your hands, please. Don’t remember? You know, it’s that story about the young girl who sneaks into the bear’s cottage, helps herself to their porridge, and then avails herself of their beds, chairs, and other furniture? Bad manners aside, I take issue with a couple of the (air-quotes) facts (air quotes) surrounding the story.

First, bears do NOT have opposable thumbs.  Well, pandas have the equivalent of a thumb, which is actually a sixth toe on their front paws, which they use for grasping bamboo (I had to Google this to make my point – ‘bear’ with me), but Papa, Mama, and Baby bear were not pandas to my knowledge. That bring ups the question then, how did they ever make porridge, or for that matter, build their cottage? Most bears I know, of which there are decidedly few, spend their time eating berries, snatching salmon out of streams, and hibernating.  Show me a picture of a bear with a hammer and a hardhat, and I may reconsider.

Now that you’ve said to yourself, what could this wild tangent he’s gone off on possibly have to do with technology? My point this month actually comes back to the part of the story where Goldilocks is trying the different bowls of porridge until she finds the one that is just right.  She has to try them all until she finds the one at the right temperature. Why she didn’t stop at Mama Bear’s bowl (wouldn’t Baby Bear’s bowl have been too cold, considering he probably had the smaller serving size?), I don’t know.

What I do know is that sometimes you have to search for something a while until find exactly what you’re looking for, just like Goldilocks.  Google, these days, has made it easy by using complex algorithms that aggregate and learn about the questions you ask and the data you’re looking for.  For those web masters who manage search features on their own sites, creating a great searching feature is considerably more complex, since Google has billions of dollars and teams of engineers that spend all day perfecting misspellings of words and phrases like ‘cat video’ and ‘cute baby pictures’ among other things.

One way to enhance search features on specific site is to allow users to enter familiar keywords and phrases that will help them find what they’re looking for.  The best way to do this is to record search terms users enter.  Rather than having to solicit information from them, they’ll be giving it to you for free, and you can collect it anonymously to negate any privacy concerns.

Once you start seeing patterns in search, you can apply these terms to your search results, such as attaching specific keywords to a document or page, and improve the quality of the search results user see on your web site.  While Google may remain the Ferrari of search engines as you pedal around on a 10-speed, your users will appreciate the extra effort into making their search results better.  Kind of like how Goldilocks  appreciated three different-sized bowls of porridge set out, even if they weren’t meant for her at all.

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