REFOCUS: Current & Future Search Interface Requirements for German-speaking Users

REFOCUSWhen looking at current research, there is plenty of existing work inquiring into how users use search engines1 and how future search interfaces could look like2. Yet, an investigation of users’ perceptions of and expectations towards current and future search interfaces is still missing.

Therefore, at this year’s International Conference on WWW/Internet (ICWI ’16) my co-author Martin Gaedke presented our paper “REFOCUS: Current & Future Search Interface Requirements for German-speaking Users”, which we wrote together with Andreas Both. To give you an idea of what our work aims at, I’m going to provide a step-by-step explanation of the research paper’s title.

REFOCUS. An acronym for Requirements for Current & Future Search Interfaces.

Search Interface Requirements. From an exploratory study with both qualitative and quantitative questions we have derived a set comprising 11 requirements for search interfaces. The initial set of requirements was validated by 12 dedicated experts.

Current. The requirements shall be valid for current search interfaces. According to the experts’ reviews, this applies to eight of the requirements.

Future. Also, the set of requirements shall inform the design and development of future search interfaces. According to the experts’ reviews, this applies to ten of the requirements. Supporting the design of future search interfaces is particularly important with the wide variety of Internet-capable novel devices, like cutting-edge video game consoles, in mind.

German-speaking Users. Due to the demographics of our participants, the set of requirements can be considered to be valid for German-speaking Internet users. 87.3% of the participants were German while 96.6% lived in a German-speaking country at the time of the survey.

If this sounds interesting to you, please go check out our research paper at ResearchGate or arXiv. The original publication will be available via the IADIS Digital Library.

1 For instance, (accessed November 8, 2016).
2 For instance, Hearst, M. A. ‘Natural’ Search User Interfaces. In Commun. ACM 54(11), 2011.


Survey: Search Engines – Perception, Usage & Expectations

Search Engines: Perception, Usage & ExpectationsIn the context of my PhD thesis in Human–Computer Interaction, I currently conduct a survey concerning the use of search engines. With the help of this survey I hope to better understand how you perceive and use search engines and which expectations you have towards them. In particular, I focus on the use of search engines with smart phones, tablet PCs and other devices, such as Nintendo Wii U or PlayStation 4 (yes, you can actually browse the web with these!).

Automatic Approaches to Usability Optimization

The research for my PhD thesis is concerned with automatic approaches to optimizing the usability of search engines. To date, we have developed two core systems within the context of desktop PCs: TMR, which uses mouse cursor interactions to predict the relevance of search results, and WaPPU, which evaluates the usability of a whole web interface based on a quantitative usability score rather than qualitative assessments by individual experts.

With TMR, we evaluated 32 GB of tracking data from two German hotel booking portals. Using these data, we were able to learn models for predicting a completed booking process (which is a very strong indicator for relevance in the context of hotel search) from users’ interactions with the individual search results. The top models we learned reached correlation coefficients of up to 0.81.

WaPPU was involved in the redesign and evaluation of the web search results page of another real-world search engine. During an A/B test based on WaPPU’s usability score, we found the original version of the page to have a score of only 59.9% while the redesigned version reached 67.5% (the difference was statistically significant). We moreover detected significant differences for the individual usability factors distraction and information density.

My next aim is to transfer the above methods into the context of touch and other novel devices. That’s why I need your help with probing the current situation with respect to search engine usage on different devices.

Search Engines: Perception, Usage & Expectations

The survey will take about 15–20 minutes (partly depending on your answers). Since I’m writing my PhD thesis in cooperation with Unister GmbH in Leipzig (Germany), every participant receives a coupon worth 50 € for booking a trip on I want to thank my industry partner very much for providing this nice incentive 🙂

Please take my survey (see below) and also tell your friends and family about it (especially if you can’t make time for taking it yourself). In this way, you can contribute valuable data to my PhD thesis and help shape future search engines! Thank you very much 🙂

(Open survey in new tab:

Umfrage: Suchmaschinen – Wahrnehmung, Nutzung & Erwartungen

Suchmaschinen: Wahrnehmung, Nutzung & ErwartungenFür meine Doktorarbeit in Human-Computer Interaction führe ich momentan eine Umfrage zur Nutzung von Suchmaschinen durch. Es geht mir in dieser Umfrage vor allem darum, herauszufinden, wie ihr Suchmaschinen wahrnehmt und welche Erwartungen ihr an sie habt. Besonderer Fokus liegt auch auf der Nutzung mit Smartphones, Tablets und anderen Geräten, wie z. B. einer Nintendo Wii U oder PlayStation 4 (ja, man kann mit Spielekonsolen mittlerweile ins Internet gehen!).

Die Umfrage dauert (teilweise abhängig von euren Antworten) nur ca. 15–20 Minuten. Da ich meine Dissertation in Kooperation mit der Unister GmbH schreibe, bekommt außerdem jeder Teilnehmer einen Reisegutschein im Wert von 50 € für An dieser Stelle vielen Dank an meinen Industriepartner 🙂

Bitte nehmt rege an meiner Umfrage teil (siehe unten) und verbreitet sie auch ein bisschen weiter (insbesondere, wenn ihr selbst keine Zeit zur Teilnahme habt). So könnt ihr einen wichtigen Beitrag zu meiner Forschung und Doktorarbeit leisten! Vielen Dank 🙂

(Umfrage in neuem Tab öffnen: