I ended up e-mailing the authors of the ‘Eye tracking in MSN Search…’ to discuss a few ideas for TRIP. I suggested a hybrid method whereby a snippet (short extract of text taken from the main document) is available but only visible via a rollover. So you retain the number of results per page and users can easily see the snippet – best of both worlds?

An interesting reply (very pleased they did reply!):

In previous work, we found that the cognitive cost associated with deciding that you need to look at the expanded abstract usually outweighs the benefit associated with presenting more results on a page; the rollover disclosure stymies users’ ability to quickly scan the results to find what they’re looking for.

I’ve taken that to mean that the extra time taken to decide to look at the extra snippet information would be better spent scanning more results.

I still think the rollover is better for TRIP, for two main reasons:

  • We have less screen ‘real estate’ due to the categorisation system, so space is even more precious.
  • TRIP is a specialised not general search engine. Users are likely to know more from the title and source in TRIP than in MSN search

So, I’m off to Sequence (our web people) to discuss the options. I’m actually favouring a ‘two snippet’ approach. Snippet one will be the first 5-7 lines of text and snippet two will be the conclusion of the article. As many articles don’t have conclusions (e.g. guidelines) many records will only have ‘snippet one’.

Sequence are very good at taking my ideas and working them into something tangible. No doubt more tomorrow on this idea!