Search: the new menu

Apple’s new OS X (Tiger) has finally been introduced. With Spotlight decidedly in the, well, spotlight. It been suggested that our computing lives will never be the same again. If that’s true, which I very much doubt, websites will also be affected. Clicking though a maze of folders is a thing of the past.

Spotlight in itself is not new and there are a number of applications that make effective use of this technology. Here’re a few I know off the top of my head, Quicksilver, Picasa 2, Yahoo’s and Goolge’s desktop search. I’m sure Longhorn will also have a snazzy search. That’s if they ever release it.

We shouldn’t worry too much were we put things, we just type in any old keyword in the spotlight search field and like magic the file will appear. So we can just sweep all our files under the carpet and wait for them to explode. However, many applications already create document structures for us. As the use of spotlight like solutions increase we will see folder structures becoming more the domain of systems and software. Users won’t need to create their own structures to find stuff because they can find what they’re looking via desktop search solutions much easier and quicker. iTunes is actually a good example of this. iTunes creates folders for all the music it stores. I need not have any idea what or where these folders are; I have full and easy access to the music regardless.

Does this mean we don’t need to have massive pulldown menus on websites either? Pulldown menus have always been a bad idea anyway. They’re difficult to use, a pain in the butt to maintain never mind building them crossbrowser. The number of man-hours that has gone into building solutions like coolmenus is completely idiotic. What a waste of time!

I’m amazed that some still think that multilevel pulldowns are ‘the’ solution to provide users access to content heavy sites. Over the past few years we have seen a shift away from these monstrosities to cleaner, faster and more usable navigation solutions.
And now we may see search playing a much bigger role in navigation instead of it being a backup solution.

Remote scripting will probably play a big role in bringing fast searching to the browser just as desktop search does for operating systems. Menus may become more even more superficial in the sense that they’ll be access points to certain contexts. These contexts could be created by keywords used in a search driven naviagtion. This way you can have a free tagging system and a search system to navigate the site. The solution would be fluid and fully user orientated. But whatever happens site navigation is going to go through a major shift. I for one will start looking into such systems from this day on.

Next entry: It’s a cross browser world.
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