As regular readers know, over the past year I’ve been playing with and evolving various ideas around gawk.it. Through that process the site actually ended up having four main features:
1. A Site search service
2. A simple RSS reader
3. A recent conversation feed
4. A conversation alerting service
Personally I enjoyed and got a good amount of value out of all four features (which is how they all got there in the first place of course).
However, in talking with various people about the service, I noticed that there was actually a very large amount of confusion around just what the primary purpose of gawk.it was.
The truth was for the average person these four features were adding way more noise than they were value.
I had let feature creep into the service and as a result things were cluttered, messy, and *way* too confusing to the average person.
So, thanks in large part to a conversation with Albert Wenger, I finally woke up to these facts and sat down to think about and correct the problems (thanks again Albert!).
Eventually I came up with the following plan:
1. Kill off the RSS part.
2. Rebrand the alerting and active conversations to knowabout.it
3. Focus the gawk.it brand *just* on search.
4. Expand and improve the sponsored/related results feature.
5. Clean up and simplify the overall design of the site.
Here’s a quick screen shot of the updated gawk.it:
The big design and UI/UX updates include:
1. A list of recent searches now sits across the top of every page (you can just click on the words to repeat those searches yourself)
2. The header should now be clean and consistent across every page and includes the ‘recent searches’, the gawk.it logo, and the basic gawk.it search box/button combo.
3. The logo and color scheme are updated (they were inspired by black cherry Kool Aid actually)
4. The search results themselves received a number of updates - most important is that we now chop all results to about 250 characters (so you are now required to click-through to the orig. source to read the full posts). I also took out a number of line breaks to condense each result by at least a few lines and made a few visual updates to try and make the headlines/titiles of a given post stand out a bit more.
5. The side navigation was stripped down to include the very basic features (ability to switch between searching posts or searching comments and the ability to share a given set of search results).
6. An updated 'related results’ feature was added to the side bar so that even when you are searching a specific site, you can get a few suggestions of other sites/posts that fit your specific search (and should be highly related/interesting to what you are looking for). For now these are all free and natural results, but the plan is to eventually have some of these slots filled with 'sponsored results’.
And, if I do say so myself, I think the results of these action items are quite good.
The gawk.it service once again feels clean and simple to me but also remains a *very* powerful search solution.
I’ve still got a lot of work to do on the knowabout.it brand (and many ideas on how to improve it as well now that it’s entirely focused on 'helping you be aware of active conversations’)…and I’ve got a number of additional upgrades to still do for gawk.it…to name just a few:
1. The install process really needs to be simplified and opened up to the general public
2. Now that the concept of a gawk.it account has been deprecated (there is no need for it in the new design), the sites that have gawk.it installed are instead going to get (infrequent) email updates breaking down just how search is being used within their site.
3. Create a self-service feature for advertisers to earn their way into the improved 'related results’ area.
So, of course, there is always more to do.
For now though, I’m just happy with the latest updates and I would love to hear in the comments what you think!
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).