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Marti Hearst’s Book on Search User Interfaces

June 22nd, 2009 · 9 Comments · General

Those of you who know Marti Hearst or follow her work may have heard that she’s been writing a book on Search User Interfaces to follow up on her chapter in Ricardo Baeza-Yates and Berthier Ribiero-Neto’s textbook on Modern Information Retrieval. Well, the wait is over: her book will be available later this week! Moreover, it will be available (and searchable!) for free online.

In the mean time, I’ve had a chance to preview the text, and I’m impressed. She introduces the book by saying:

Many books on information retrieval describe the algorithms behind search engines and information retrieval systems. By contrast, this book focuses on the human users of search systems and the tool they use to interact with them: the search  user interface. Because of their global reach, search user interfaces must be understandable by and appealing to a wide variety of people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, and for an enormous variety of information needs.

She then proceeds to elaborate on the design and evaluation of search interfaces. Not surprisingly, she reserves whole chapters for query reformulation and for integrating navigation and search–she is, after all, one of the pioneers of faceted search and one of the leading HCIR researchers. She also includes a chapter on theoretical models of the information seeking process–a nice review that includes the highlights from the decades of library and information science work on this topic.

Of course, the wide scope of the book requires some trade-offs. Each chapter is surely worthy of a book in its own right. But where breadth has to take precedence over depth, she makes up for it by citing hundreds of references so that readers can follow up to their hearts’ content. Also, the focus is academic, so most of the references are to academic rather than commercial work–though she does sneak in a reference to WebMD as an example of faceted search. That said, it’s great to see so much of the academic work on search interfaces brought together in one place. Some may find her thorough bibliography to be almost as useful as the book itself!

All in all, this is an excellent book, and I’m sure it will find its way into many course syllabi. The book is aimed primarily at academic audiences–in fact, she points out that, while there are some books for practicitioners (e.g., Peter Morville and Lou Rosenfeld’s Information Architecture for the World Wide Web), there have been no academic books that focus primarily on search user interfaces (the closest, in her view, have been books about theoretical models of information seeking behavior). Hopefully this new book will incite more academic interest in this area. For those of us who would like to advance beyond the status quo of search interfaces, this book is a welcome contribution.

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob Carpenter // Jun 22, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I hope someone posts another announcement when it’s out so I don’t forget about it. I loved the article on which it was based.

    Cambridge says September. Marti’s page says “watch this space”. The only thing missing is one of those yellow animations of a digging construction worker.

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 22, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    No idea when the print version comes out, but my understanding is that the online book will be available this week. In any case, I’ll post a quick bite when I hear any news.

  • 3 Christopher Rines // Jun 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Still waiting for Amazon to ship your book in Canada. Is it out in the US yet?

  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 22, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    The publisher’s site lists it as available, but I still haven’t received a copy. Barnes & Noble in the US lists it as out of stock. I’m sorry for the delay, but I’m as much in the dark as you at this point.

  • 5 Christopher Rines // Jun 22, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Not a problem, just looking forward to it. 🙂

    Amazon is kind of like on-going Christmas for me because most the books I order aren’t shipping so I get a nice email saying it’s coming. 🙂

  • 6 Marti Hearst’s Book: Now Available Online | The Noisy Channel // Jun 25, 2009 at 8:53 am

    […] out Marti Hearst’s new book on Search User Interfaces! You can read my review here. Thanks to Christina for the heads […]

  • 7 Bob Carpenter // Jun 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Ask (even indirectly and mockingly) and ye shall receive. I love the web.

    Thanks for the update, Dan.

  • 8 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 25, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    No, it’s ask and ye shall find. Or, in Feynman’s case, um. receive.

  • 9 FXPAL Blog » Blog Archive » Search User Interfaces // Jun 29, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    […] Hearst’s new book, Search User Interfaces, is out, as Daniel Tunkelang reported earlier. The book covers a range of topics related to interaction around information seeking, […]

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