Originally published August 14, 2008
Search has become the norm for finding information, yet it is far more complex than a simple just taking a word and finding all occurrences of the word. Gone are the days when word indexing and keyword search were sufficient for today’s sophisticated analyst. Buyers/customers/users expect relevant and useful results from the execution of a search, yet a high percentage of searches fail to return the answers they expect. Let’s look at some reasons behind the less than optimally effective searches that people do each day:
Language is imprecise, unlike programming languages. Using a structured vocabulary can significantly improve findability particularly in large, complex databases.
WAND Inc. developed such a structured vocabulary in response to their business needs, and then repackaged that expertise for their clients. The core dictionary of search terms was developed for the consumer electronics industry. The company has now expanded to provide comprehensive taxonomies covering all products and all services in multiple industries.
The power of WAND vocabularies comes from using a numeric coding system for each search term. Descriptions for individual search terms are then translated into eleven different languages (both Asian and European) by experts in those languages, trained linguists and lexicographers.
This numeric coding scheme has a thesaurus structure to show synonyms (related terms), as well as broader and narrower terms. Controlled vocabularies are used to describe attributes for search terms, which can be utilized for faceted search.
Search results can be improved by utilizing this platform independent approach at the different levels of data management:
Organizing digital data is not easy. Yet organization and classification are crucial to finding relevant information for decision making. Text-based assets can be processed for keyword searching. Digital images, audio and video assets, however, can’t be found without adding search terms, either on the open web or inside corporate firewalls.
A common vocabulary and structure such as that provided by WAND can be used for digital assets and data in different business applications. Using the same industry vocabulary in multiple languages improves communication with international partners and offices.
Search failures are reduced by enabling buyers/customers/users to use the same body of search terms as internal customer service, developers and marketers. Unresolved search terms from web searches can be added, as well as departmental software applications that may have their own specialized terminology.
Search is an enabling technology, built by software specialists who speak their own language. Buyers/customers, however, have their own language, shaped by industry jargon, multiple languages, buying cycle and other factors. Utilizing a structured vocabulary to bridge these languages with synonyms and search term relationships significantly improves the search experience and reduces the failure rate.