Product Catalog Search
Dieselpoint Search is good choice for searching, displaying, and managing product information on your website. It combines full-text, parametric, comparison, and suggestion-oriented search into one straightforward package.
A Better Search
If you ask a shop clerk for a red pen, the clerk knows that you’re probably asking for a pen with red ink, not a pen that’s colored red. You’ll be directed to the right section quickly. Few search engines can accomplish this simple task because they lack basic information about what’s important. They do not know that “pen” is part of a product’s name, “red” is an adjective that can describe ink color or body color, and that ink color is the more important attribute. The Dieselpoint search engine knows all of these things, and can generate search results that are directly relevant to the user’s needs.
The key to a good product search is a real understanding and management of product attributes. Product attributes include titles, descriptions, specifications (length, color, weight, etc.), pictures, documents, links, cross-references to other products, and a variety of other data that might or might not be relevant to a search, depending on the context. Some of the information is unstructured and some of it is highly structured. The Dieselpoint software uses the location and type of each attribute to make inferences about what the user will want to see. For example, when a user searches for 1/4″ drill bit , the system can know that 1/4 is the same as .25, and the number probably refers to a diameter instead of a length, and that items that are drill bits should appear higher in the results than items that merely use drill bits. The system can also show other relevant attributes, like whether the drill bits are good for wood, metal, or masonry. Only software that really understands attributes can do this.
In many cases, a search engine cannot know what’s important unless a product specialist has a means of telling it what’s important. Dieselpoint provides a means of doing this, so a specialist’s guidance and knowledge of the customer can improve the results.
Dieselpoint includes an integrated suggestion engine which makes suggestions to a user based on inferences about what a user might want. Users often use search terms that are misspelled or differ slightly from the ones in a catalog. Still, the system can make guesses by showing the user relevant categories, possible alternative products, alternative spellings, and alternative values for numeric attributes (e.g. when there are no 1/4″ items in stock, suggest 3/8″, 1/2″, metric sizes, etc.). The system can also show tradeoffs among attributes, showing the user the opportunity to purchase a better grade or a faster speed for a few dollars more.
Sometimes it’s not the user that causes the problem — sometimes the data is bad or incomplete. This is particularly true for companies that are just putting product description data on the web for the first time. With Dieselpoint, this is ok. The system allows users the ability to get “close enough” results when the data is dirty, while allowing the company to improve the data over time. This is particularly important when breaking out and standardizing product attributes is a time-consuming task.
One of the most important elements of the user experience is speed. Studies show that users expect results in three clicks, and they will wait only eight seconds for a page to load. They will not tolerate drilling down through page after page to find a product.
The solution is to “shoot first, ask questions later” — in other words, give the user exactly what they ask for immediately, while simultaneously showing them different directions they can go. With Dieselpoint, results come in one click, period. If a search fails, Dieselpoint shows the user exactly why it failed. By showing different categories or terminology, it not only helps users, it educates them as well.
Comparisons must be enforced within the scope of the eyespan.
— Edward R. Tufte, Envisioning Information
Products are compared based on attributes. To get a good comparison, it’s better to compare apples to apples, where all apples have the same sets of attributes. But in many cases a user will want to compare apples to oranges — perhaps by seeing two products that are in different categories that might fill the same purpose.
Dieselpoint’s innovative structure allows for creating, sorting, filtering, grouping, and modifying comparison charts of product attributes with near-instant response times. Our patent-pending technology creates the charts automatically, without requiring the user to select individual products or otherwise jumping through hoops. This allows the system to build relevant comparisons within a single page, or “within the scope of the eyespan”.
The Dieselpoint search engine can operate as a stand-alone product catalog, or it can become part of a larger solution. It integrates easily with other systems through XML, a direct Java API, JDBC/SQL calls, or through a JSP front end. The system can index most external product databases and keep itself up-to-date automatically.
The Dieselpoint search engine is written entirely in Java. The (optional) user interface is implemented using Java Server Pages (JSP). The system will run in any J2EE-compliant application server, including BEA Weblogic, IBM Websphere, Resin, JRun, ServletExec, Tomcat, and others.