Applications based on semantic technologies offer new ways to discover, browse and explore information – this is an established fact in the SemWeb community. But how can we (as semantic web “insiders”) communicate these potential benefits to a typical end-user who has never heard about “faceted search” before – which doesn’t mean that he or she wouldn’t love intelligent user interfaces if they were in place?
One answer lies in using mockups, which are, on the one hand, an indispensable instrument for prototyping user interfaces, but also valuable when it comes to explaining the workings of an application to an end-user, an audience of interested researchers or a client.
And when it comes to explaining a search engine or search widget, mockups are even more important, as we all and in particular end-users are often unable to think of search interfaces other than in terms of Google.
We have become so googlified that hardly anyone can think of different ways of searching for information than Google has offered for many years now: Put a couple of words in a text box, click a button and scroll through a list of titles and summaries. Repeat until you’re done, or try a new search and repeat. Wow!
Although even Google has started recently to implement a little bit of semantics by offering an auto-complete functionality on google.com (on some local versions like Google Austria this feature is still not available), even the most basic concepts for an intelligent search interface are still not part of common sense thinking.
Admittedly, there are people who get irritated instantly by complex user interfaces like David HuynhÂ´s Freebase Parallax. “This is only for experts!” is their response. But in a corporate setting, complex queries are part of our daily business – they are just not supported by common search engines (only exception being data mining solutions). But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need it.
Where is the way out of this dilemma?
Don’t tell, but SHOW the end-users how semantic technologies can enhance search & browse experiences
Do not use terms like SPARQL or RDF
Create a simple mockup that illustrates the points you want to make
You’re not a designer? Use tools like Balsamiq – Try it now!
Here is an example for a mockup of a semantically enhanced expert finder:
These kind of mockups are essential for any requirements engineering phase in any project where search is a bit more than a text box, a button and a bunch of documents.