Launching “Search User Interfaces”

June 24th, 2009 by marti | 11 Comments »

This blog is a companion for my new book, which I am making available online today.

My intended audience is  practitioners and researchers who spend a lot of time thinking about user interfaces for search engines, or who want to bone up on the field.

In this book I try to stick to the evidence. My intention is for all claims to be backed up by usability studies, log studies, or some other form of proof, unless otherwise noted.

Ten years ago when I wrote the first chapter on search interfaces for the textbook Modern Information Retrieval, little was known about what works from a usability perspective and what does not.  Although we as a community still have more questions than answers, there now is enough known to fill a book.

In putting this information into a book there is a danger of rapid obsolescence. Search is a fast-paced field and many examples will soon become out of date.   I hope that despite this,  much of what I wrote is fundamental and will stand the test of time.

Even so, it is important to update the text with discussions of new developments and how they relate to what has come before, and that is what this blog is for.

And of course I want to hear from search aficionados about what you think about these developments!  And what you think about the contents of the book.   I hope you’ll join the conversation!


  1. Congratulations on the book, Marti. I’ve just started to read it online.

    Will you do a post on the ‘making of’ the book website? I’m quite impressed with how well it reads as a web-book: great images, great tables, etc. How did you manage to create such a create book website and a book too?

  2. Marti says:

    Thanks, Will! I’m glad you like the design of the site. The answer is that I spent a lot of time on it, because there wasn’t any out-of-the-box solution that I could live with.

    I wrote the book in latex, and so I wrote special purpose code to convert the latex to html (although I did use bibtex2html for the references). In retrospect, I probably should instead have started with the output of latex2html on everything and then modified the output.

    I put a lot of thought into whether to break the text up into chapters or sections, because I didn’t want each page too long but I wanted the context retained. I think chapters works best in the end, and it helps a lot with the cross-referencing. I broke the text up into sections for the search tool, though.

    I was a bit concerned about having comments appear on the chapters, as that text is frozen and should always look the same, so I decided on a link from the chapter pages to comment pages on the blog. We’ll see if that works or not. I did make a category for each chapter. I could also do it for sections but I think that is overkill.

    I had to learn a bit of php to use the search tool I ended up with (because the hosting service I chose works best with php). This is also my first exposure to wordpress, and I still need to improve how it is integrated into the rest of the site. I also realize the intro pages need work to draw people in, including some posts from the blog eventually.

    The graphic design took a long time. I wanted to make it readable, and not too website-ish. I’m glad you like the outcome!

  3. Terrific and insightful book. Thank you so much for making it available online.

  4. Marti says:

    Brendan, thanks so much for taking a look. I’m so glad you find it helpful!

  5. Thanks for so generously making the book available in this form. Is there an email address or other means of reporting errata?

  6. Marti says:

    Using this forum is a good way. I might also add a special form for errata if needed.

  7. […] Hearst generously made his upcoming book “Search User Interfaces” available for reading online. He is definitely not a newcomer to the scene and the book for sure not a Best-Of compilation, […]

  8. Marti says:

    Just for the record, I’m a “she”, not a “he”.

  9. Mark Cramer says:

    Congratulations, Marti, on the book and the blog! You should be very proud of your work.

  10. Owen Otto says:

    Hi Marti, congrats on the new book! I now work on search UI design and will definitely be picking up a copy.


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