Book search and glanceability

bookslivesearch.jpgSomebody I was talking to recently mentioned that they liked they way Microsoft implemented book search. In particular they mentioned the visual presentation of where in a book matched search terms occurred.

I had a look. Here is a screen capture of the first result in a search done this afternoon Ireland and globalization.

It is indeed quite nice. Another example of glanceabiity: a measure of how quickly and easily a visual design communicates useful information.

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Comments: 0

Mar 05, 2008
Peter Murray

Neat idea -- the "Results in this book" bar does do a nice job of showing the relative importance of the search term in various parts of the book. I was also struck by the structure of the URL to the search results page:

http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=&scope=books#q=ireland%20globalization&filter=all&page=1

In the web architecture, that breaks down into two important parts. The first part is what the web client sends to the web server as the initial request for an HTML page:

http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=&scope=books

The second part is on the other side of the hash character, and is the "fragment identifier":

q=ireland%20globalization&filter=all&page=1

What is interesting to note is that the query term is not located in the first part -- in what is initially retrieved from the web server -- but rather in the second part. Presumably some AJAX-y JavaScript returned by the first part is using the fragment identifier to call back into Microsoft's servers for the results.

Such a design seems elegant and convoluted at the same time. Elegant because it starts to address the problem of permanent URIs for AJAX-y state. Convoluted because of the inherent need to save AJAX-y state via a fragment identifier. It also seems pretty fragile. I'll need to think about the implications of this some more.