Traditionally, finding the information you want on a directory site can be a daunting task. First you have to learn how the information is structured, and we all have asked ourselves, why is the information structured in this peculiar way?
Unfortunately, there is no single international standard that satisfies all cases and the various attempts at achieving "The Standard", has resulted in a lot of confusion.
Having identified this challenge, we opted for a process which we believe will provide for a intuitive and interactive user experience.
At the same time, the process also has to be very performant ( in other words fast ) or one looses the sense of interactivity and it starts to impact negatively on the user's experience.
We have included here screen shots of the Provider Search Bar for desktop or notebook (top) and for hand-held mobile devices. The second screenshot shows the display of the Provider Search Bar on the iPhone-4 (one of the smallest mobile phones).
The design of the layout is intended to provide in-context and focused functionality with a minimum of clutter.
We made provision for the traditional navigation process through the use of a single-level menu in the horizontal orange bar.
The first three options in this menu, will navigate you to one of the Key Functional search pages, (Providers, Places and Events). The rest of the options in this menu represent the Top Level Offering Categories of the Providers. You can scroll to the left or to the right by using the arrows on the right-hand side of the orange navigation bar.
Alternatively, you can use gestures (swipe to the left or to the right). If you are not using a touch-sensitive device, you can use the mouse by clicking anywhere in the orange bar and by holding the button depressed, move to the left or to the right (the same way as you would pan left or right on a map). This will allow you scroll through the options in the menu.
Once you have found the category that best relates to what you are looking for, click on the option.
Let us assume you selected the "Accommodation" option.
The page will reload and present the filtered data. The filtered data will include results that satisfy all levels of sub-categories that may be defined.
At the same time, the pre-selected option category will be displayed in the appropriate search text box.
At this stage you have only accessed the top level category and you may have far too many results to scroll through. Ideally you would at this stage, like to refine your search to say, Self Catering Apartments.
At this stage you have no idea what other options are available.
This is where the interactive search functionality comes in very handy.
The built-in Helper function located at the top right of the search text box (the downward pointing chevron) is indicating that there is more information to be accessed.
If we click on this Helper, it opens up a drop-down panel from where we can refine our search further.
You will notice that the down-chevron has now changed to an up-chevron, which indicates that you can, if you so wish, close or collapse this drop-down, which will result in what we have in the image above.
You will notice a second icon to the left of the helper. This is the Eraser; and it does exactly what its name implies. It clears this filter and the results will automatically be updated the moment you click on the Eraser.
The enclosed darker blue box (Accommodation) indicates the top level category and just below it, we have another select box from were we can refine the filter even further.
We now have access to the next category level and we can select our option. As we are looking for Self Catering Apartments, the Self Catering Accommodation seems to be the closest match, so we select it.
Once again, the results are updated automatically (and this happens within about half a second).
At the same time, the new result count (number of matches found) is updated and the current search filter criteria are also displayed to show the user which criteria are active.
It is important to note that, although there is technically no limit on the depth of sub-categories, more than 5 or 6 levels are generally discouraged as it becomes difficult to display in a practical way on mobile devices.
Having selected the Self Catering Accommodation, we now have access to the next level from which, Apartments and Studios can be selected.
In this example, we have now reached the maximum depth.
Here we do not have a further level of refinement and the deepest level is Apartments and Studios.
The full extent of the tree is now displayed and we can traverse back or jump directly to any level in the tree.
Every darkened block is a link which will allow us to navigate back to any level and then branch out again to any other option.
There is no limit to the number of iterations that can be performed and the real power becomes evident when with every iteration, the results are presented in about half a second.
One can at any stage, switch over to any of the other filter elements (Purpose, Location or Provider Name) and perform similar iterations there. The criteria selected here will remain in force until you decide to revert back to change the criteria.
In this example, we started off by clicking on Accommodation in the orange navigation menu.
Another efficient method would be to start typing "acc" ( we need three or more characters to trigger the auto-complete function) and then select Accommodation from the options presented.
Alternatively, we could have typed in "apa" for Apartments and the site will present Apartments and Studios as one of the options.
You are not limited to start with the first three characters of the phrase. The search algorithm matches all occurrences of the phrase to any part of a category or offering defined in the system.
The search algorithm is designed to accommodate even for uniquely branded offering names (like Kids Beach Day) which is not organized in a category or sub-category with a similar name.
We trust that your experience in using our Interactive Search Methodology will be easy, efficient and effective.