It is usually with good intentions that a project is tackled with extreme attention to detail. Every possible variation of input and output are considered and analyzed. Focus groups are put together to gather information from all interested parties. The process is time consuming but can result in some good data being gathered and a successful project outcome. It is the right way to do things.
Now the hard part is trying determine how users will find that data if they need it again. The data that was gathered may have dug up some minutia but also large sets of data that will be used every day. The trick is to provide the everyday user with the ability to find information in a few clicks (simple interface) but also provide a way to find that one obscure piece of data. Can a one size fits all search work?
An example may be the best way to explain this. Think about your grocery store. The food is organized in groupings by type of food or ethnicity. All the cereal is in one place as are the eggs. It’s not efficient to configure the store such that all food produced in Sioux Falls Idaho is one place and all food from Traverse City Michigan is in another. That may be very useful to the one shopper that happens to need something they saw on the Food Network, but not useful for the other 99 out of 100 shoppers.
Searching for data or documents needs to follow the same basic rules. Building a search interface that will work for all users in all situations is noble, but not practical or efficient. Build a primary search interface that is useful to the majority of users. Then provide options for advanced searches either through a secondary interface or filters on the primary search results. In a nutshell, keep your primary search interface targeted to no more than 5 or 6 optional pieces of data.
The end result of giving users less to search on will be more efficiency, greater happiness with the system and less complaints. So as fun as it is to try to build the do-all application, all of your users, even the super searchers will be happier if you provide multiple options. If you are the grocery store owner, just put in an end cap with all the awesome food from Sioux Falls.
Millennia Group provides workflow and document management solutions. www.mgdocs.com, firstname.lastname@example.org