We are very pleased to announce our latest blekko.com site redesign. This major redesign has 3 main features:
- Blekko now exposes multiple search categories to help users navigate to high quality results more efficiently and with less queries
- Blekko supports a responsive design that adjusts to tablet and desktop screen sizes
- The site has been redesigned with a new aesthetic and navigational approach that we hope users find fun and engaging
The Evolution of Categories
Our decision to show multiple categories in search results evolved from a marriage of technology and usability. Rich, Greg and our cadre of talented engineers initially built a framework that allowed users to specify a curated set of sites using librarian-crafted semantic categories (slashtags) with their search term. Slashtags separated the golden search nuggets of wheat from the chaff of billions of spam sites, link farms and black hat SEO sites that are notably absent in our search results. Our next iteration in category technology was in late 2011 when we developed the ability to determine relevant categories without requiring users to explicitly type a slashtag along with their query term. We referred to this as “auto-boosting” of slashtags. While this technology helped with usability of the site and our slashtags, the experience was subtle and end users still arrived at a results page with “10 blue links”.
Blekko took auto-boosted categories a giant step forward when we completed a new API this January that responds with multiple search categories for most queries. Our mobile app izik was our first product to leverage the new API. Now we have integrated our category rich API into blekko.com along with a bold new design and navigational approach.
Our internal and external team of slashtag librarians has been hard at work expanding our list of categories into the thousands. Among our more common categories are “Top results” which is similar to the 10 blue links you’d get on most other search engines and “Latest” is the most recent dated results for the query. The “News” category displays results from our human-curated list of news sources, so while it probably isn’t quite as up-to-date or diverse as “Latest”, it may have much higher quality.
Here are a few examples of query terms and the categories returned:
football: college sports, soccer, college football, football, sports, fantasy sports, sports equipment
healthy snacks for kids: parenting, health, alternative medicine, recipes, magazines, nutrition
apple: news, apple, recipes, reviews, tech
lyme disease symptoms: health, alternative medicine, pets, dogs
Displaying multiple categories for a given search term has several benefits. First and foremost, it can be very challenging for a search engine to disambiguate user intent from a vague query term such as ‘apple’ or ‘tesla’ which could trigger many different flavors of results. Is the user seeking information about Tesla electric cars, the inventor Nicola Tesla or perhaps lyrics for an 80s hair band? The antiquated approach to solving this riddle is to sprinkle in a variety of different types of results among the 10 blue links from those few sites on the planet with significant enough SEO juice to muscle their way to the top. The new Blekko redesign allows users to drill down into multiple categories that each present a different vantage point on the search topic. Since each category is clearly labeled we can warn the user of baked-in bias. For example, the category “Alternative Medicine” under the query “asthma treatment” will yield very different results than the more traditional “Health” category. You can imagine that the category “Conservative” under the query “obamacare” will similarly yield results from web sites with a specific editorial slant.
An unanticipated benefit we have observed via izik usability testing and click metrics is deeper user interaction with their search results. There has been much publicity around the search golden triangle which describes the propensity of users to click on links in the upper left portion of the page with very few clicks beyond those lucky top ordinals. Getting users to interact with advanced settings and search filters has long been a Product Manager’s holy grail. We have been surprised and delighted to encounter users commonly navigating beyond the top ordinal results deep into 80th or 90th ordinals (unheard of!) due largely to the new categorized layout.
Using the New Blekko
The categories expand and collapse to expose more or less search results which can then be scrolled through horizontally.
As the screenshot from our product tour below illustrates, you can expand a category (or collapse an already expanded category) and see more search results by clicking the vertical category title. Clicking the down arrow in a search result category similarly expands the category. Jump to a category by clicking from the menu on the left rail.