Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beauty of One Box Search

Google has made one-box searching a pleasure for the web. If the query is pretty simple and you want to find a web site rather than data, then the results, by and large are pretty good.

But you're in real trouble when you try more complex queries like "flights from London to Cape Town from May 1-12" or "property in Tribeca with 3 bedrooms". The results on Google are useless.

Traditionally vertical search engines have been better than Google at getting the right results but they have been unable to deliver a service in an such simple way with "one-box search".

Recently, Mobimissimo (an Index investment) in travel and DotHomes (a TAG investment, which used to be called Extate) in property have started to break this mould.

Although category coverage is very important in vertical search, this is relatively easy to do compared to general areas like the web, images or video as the sources of information are generally well known and fairly limited. Of course, there are major challenges in structuring data and keeping it fresh but coverage is only one piece of the jigsaw - search was never won by index size alone.

Both Mobimissimo and DotHomes offer similar or more coverage than their better known rivals such as Kayak or Trulia. But what is probably most interesting about Mobimissimo and DotHomes is that they allow queries and deliver results in an interface that is much more natural and intuitive to use -- the fabled "one-box".

To find flights on Kayak from London to Cape Town will mean you have to engage with at least 4 boxes;

with Mobissimo its one-box and when you get your results you can easily change currency, see local weather, photos from Flickr and even your Dopplr contacts.

Meanwhile in real estate, if you type "Tribeca 3 beds" into Trulia you get no results - in fact an error page;

but on DotHomes you not get results, you also get the requisite map and of course the ability to further filter results -- one box, natural language queries and immediately.

Of course it doesn't help that the prices are still sky high but at least you can find what you were looking for :)

These are some early examples of what hopefully will be a more general trend in search. Its not easy to do, but when done right a simple and natural query interface can produce a great user experience which will surely drive transaction volume significantly in critical and high-value verticals. Google did this with web search and I think the innovators in vertical search will make similar UI leaps.

If you have any other great examples, I'd love to hear about them.

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At 2/14/2008 01:12:00 pm, Blogger A Weissman said...

Some music apps are also taking this approach:

Andrew Weissman

At 2/14/2008 04:08:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first counter argument is that people don't type in extra long queries. Or the majority doesn't. Google users haven't even figured out negative queries (put a minus infront of a word).

Second I see that if I search for the word 'full' or 'top' on dothomes I get 393.000 results (the complete database??).
All of them have that word somewhere in the description. Sorry, but the advanced intelligent algorithm seems to be a simple full text search.


At 2/14/2008 05:02:00 pm, Blogger fergusb said...

Hi Saul

check out tp://

related to your travel scenario

Best Regards

At 2/18/2008 01:14:00 am, Blogger ak102 said...

@Richard: not sure what you mean by the query "full" or "top". The results are as you expect - those matching the keyword. Saul's point is that one-box search allows you to type in refinements you'd typically use other fields for (price, bedrooms, etc). Try this for example:

Note that one-box is just a shortcut. You don't have to type in a long query, you can start with a short one and filter results as usual.

At 5/13/2008 07:25:00 pm, Anonymous Nigel said...

Great post Saul,

You raise some very valid points which in part were the drivers for the creation of is a service that uses the simplicity of 'one box' search and discovery in the local business and services space.

The site is in prototype mode right now. Your feedback is more than welcome

Nigel Gay
YouPage Ltd

At 6/06/2008 07:35:00 pm, Blogger Blue Label said...

Hi Saul,

I recently learned about, which is using the one-box approach for calendar scheduling. Check it out. I found it really powerful.

Associate Partner


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