Sunday, July 31, 2011Finding the project you’re looking for in a collection of 100 projects is pretty easy. But finding one project in 2,000,000 can be hard. When you add in all the other things you might want to search for -- forum posts, galleries, wiki entries, and support pages -- then search can get pretty tricky. So as we’ve worked on Scratch 2.0, we decided to invest some energy on improving the search tools in Scratch.
We started with some rough conceptual mockups. Like most designers, we make a lot of “mockups” - models that show different ways that something might work. Mockups are easy and quick to make, because they don’t have to look good, and they don’t even have to function. All they have to do is show how an approach or an idea might work so that the design team can think it over, weigh the advantages and the disadvantages, and come up with new ideas.
This is the first mockup we made when we started to think about ways to improve search. It shows what the results for a search on “lolcats” might look like. Forum posts are at the top, followed by projects, galleries, wiki pages, and tags. This is a different way of organizing the search results than the approach used by the current Scratch website, which just displays a list and lets you filter the results by type afterwards.
Gaia joins the Scratch Team
Shortly after we made this initial mockup, Gaia Carini joined the Scratch Team and dove into the problem of search. Gaia recently graduated from MIT, and chose to come back to earn a Masters of Engineering degree. She’s made many mockups and several working prototypes so that the design team could try out different approaches. Here’s a picture of her latest (but not final) search interface.
This shows a few of the features that have grown out of discussions about past prototypes, like the ability to enlarge and play a project right on the search page (without having to click-through to the project page). Links on the left sidebar help you refine your initial results, so you can narrow things down with only a few clicks. This makes finding what you’re looking for a lot quicker and easier.
We're still considering additional ways to enhance search. For example, should we include an "advanced search" interface, to allow for deeper searches? Should the search box automatically suggest search terms as you type them in? And we're still not quite sure if it's better to display results in separate categories, as in the first mockup, or if we should display them as a mix of projects, forum posts, etc.
What do you search for on the Scratch website? Are there things you wish you could find more easily? Do you have suggestions on how to improve search in Scratch? Share your thoughts in this forum thread.