Review of an Existing Search System
People use search or Information Retrieval (IR) technologies in different ways and within different contexts for locating relevant information. Most websites and information services include functionalities to assist end users with searching for and browsing information (e.g. IR systems, facets, etc.). These, combined with
effective information architecture design, can support information finding.
The aim of this coursework is for you to investigate the features provided by a specific website to support
users with finding information through searching, i.e. for the kind of information seeking where the starting
point is formulating a query. Systems provide various features to assist users with the search process, such
as articulating their needs, formulating and refining queries, examining search results, and browsing. Further
details of search systems and user interfaces can be found in textbooks by Hearst (2009), Wilson, (2011),
etc. Users interact with search system functionalities whilst engaged in various tasks, ranging from
identifying known-items, through subject searches to more exploratory forms of searching.
This coursework requires you to carry out a form of ‘expert’ assessment of the search functionalities provided
by one of a selection of websites. You will consider how well the search system meets the needs of its users
undertaking their typical search tasks. You will also review and critically assess how well the system enables
users to retrieve information items.
More specifically, this coursework requires that you do the following:
• Select a website/search system from the list provided (2.1).
• Consider who the users of your chosen system might be, and describe their typical information
• Select two different types of search task. For each one, develop one or more scenarios to illustrate
why users use your chosen search system (2.2).
• Investigate the selected system in detail and describe the range of functionalities it provides to
support users as they search for information (2.3).
• Assess retrieval effectiveness for a set of typical search queries (2.4).
• Conduct a heuristic evaluation to assess the usability of the search user interface (2.5).
• Based upon the assessment carried out in the previous sections, make recommendations for
improvements that could be made to the search system and search user interface (2.6).