For the past few days I’ve been battling a cold, or at least something that produced cold-like symptoms, but which now seems to have settled into the left side of my jaw.
With the Internet at my fingertips, this inevitably led me to reach one of two possible self-diagnosis:
- It isn’t a cold, but rather a wayward wisdom tooth, that I was told seven years ago needed to be removed ASAP, now fulfilling the dentist’s prophesies.
- It is a case of the mumps. Although I’m pretty sure I have been vaccinated, apparently this only guarantees 95% immunity to exposure. However, mumps isn’t particularly infectious, and would require drinking a cup of a fellow mumpee’s nasal juices before you could guarantee successful virus transmission.
I’m not sure what troubles me more, the prospect of spending $1000s on dentistry, or pondering which of the cafes I recently visited served me up a cup of syrupy nasal delight?
Nonetheless, I reluctantly decided I needed to seek out a provider of antibiotics, after Beau convinced me that ignorantly nibbling on panadols isn’t a particularly constructive solution.
I turned to yellowpages.co.nz. Now, it seems every time I visit this site, it becomes increasingly difficult to use.
This was the user experience I had today, when searching for a doctor in Eden Terrace:
- Visit http://yellowpages.co.nz.
- Notice the site has yet again been revamped, and the old category-based searching has been replaced with a bold what/where search engine. So, instead I optimistically type: What:Doctor, Where:Eden Terrace
I get the following results:
- The Water Stain Doctor, Christchurch
- Rug Doctor (NZ) Ltd, Eastern Suburbs, Whangaparaoa, Manukau, Pukekohe, North Shore, West Auckland, Auckland
- The Attitude Doctor, Auckland
- The Turf Doctor, Ellerslie, Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Howick, Glenfield Drury, Manukau, Orewa, Takapuna, Auckland Call Free
- A A A Bench Doctors Ltd, Auckland, Manukau, North Shore, Albany Waitakere, Henderson, Takapuna, Pukekohe, Rodney Auckland City Auckland
- Foot Mechanics, Pukekohe, Helensiville, Avondale, New Lynn Greenlane, Papakura, Manakau, Henderson, Clevedon Auckland
- Carlisle Mason Optometrists, Auckland
- Infar Vision, Auckland
- Eye Pro, Christchurch
- Psychic Reflections, Nationwide, Auckland
- Pendragon Psychic & Tarot, Hibiscus, Warkworth, Pukekohe, Helensville, Albany Auckland, Waitakere, Manukau City, North Shore, Sylvia Park Auckland
- Hamilton Veterinary Services, Hamilton
Searching for a doctor in Eden Terrace returns a veterinary clinic in Hamilton, any number of tarot and psychic healers, a carpet cleaner in Christchurch, and a bunch of optometrists in the greater Auckland region. And that’s just on the first page.
- I decide to try a new search, this time using one of Yellow’s categories. However, in order to get to the category-based searching I have to go back to the Yellow home page.
- I go to the home page, and under the what field click select category. And this is where it really falls apart. The first user interface blunder is that the top-level categories are too specialized. Instead of having just a dozen top-level categories, the user is forced to wade through 100s. Maybe even 1000s. Now because these can’t all fit on a screen, Yellow have thoughtfully broken them up alphabetically. Bad move. Now the user has to individually click on each letter to see them all. And instead of each of the categories under each letter tidily fitting on the screen, the user is forced to pointlessly scroll through them.
- At this point I give up. I have no way of psychically guessing under which of Yellow’s seemingly 1000’s of top-level categories a GP might be classed under, without clicking on every letter of the alphabet and scrolling through the 100’s of entries. And even if I did have the patience to do this, I have already lost confidence in their search engine, which proved incapable of even doing a geographical sort.
The end result is a very poor user-experience. The site has recently been upgraded, but it is apparent the new-look-and-feel website was too quickly pushed through to production without adequate testing or any usability analysis.
So, some constructive suggestions:
- Fix the search. This consists of two parts, geographical, and the actual query
- Geographical searching. This is the site’s most important functionality, and is what allows Yellow to compete with Google. But it needs to work reliably. The search box should have a little tick-box next to it, saying ‘search surrounding areas’. If it is ticked the search engine returns all results from surrounding suburbs. If the box is unticked, the search results are absolute. If I type in Eden Terrace, only services in Eden Terrace are returned. If I make a typo, e.g. Edan Terrace, then no results are returned. (For bonus points, Yellow could even engage a ‘did you mean’ spell-check algorithm in this case)
- Query searching. For an e-commerce site there is no excuse to have a crappy search engine. The search application should employ a ranking system that incorporates key-words, so that if I enter doctor, all medical doctor’s clinics are ranked more highly than rug doctor. It would be useful to also have a check-box to ‘search for business name’, and ‘search for category’.
- Categorization. All categories need to be quickly visible at a glance. There shouldn’t be more than a dozen top-level and sub-categories, and it should be obvious to a user which category they require. (The old Yellow Pages website did this much better). A good working example of this is Trademe.
- The search results page should support exactly the same search functionality as the home page.
And now I’m off to Google to search for a local doctor in Eden Terrace who doesn’t specialize in rugs, and also research whether there have been any recent outbreaks of mumps along Ponsonby Road.