The innovation story behind Visual Finder
In this our first article about Visual Finder, Dani, our CTO, suggested we start with some storytelling, sharing some episodes of our journey. A journey that took us to the patented Visual Finder Discovery Engine.
Getting there was no easy task, and was possible only after many iterations. Lots of testing and analyzing were necessary till we arrived to the final concept, which is never final, by the way, but always work in progress.
The fundamentals that are behind Visual Finder are plenty of hard work, innovation and customer focus.
We hope you enjoy our story, and hope you appreciate our vision and approach to search.
In our case, innovation did not mean striking a lucky idea, but developing a commercial product based on a refined concept and built on multiple individual innovations in different areas.
These numerous building blocks were harvested thanks to lots of investigation, research, processing and intuition as well.
We have experienced innovation surging in powerful brainstormings; also lived moments in which it arises when less expected, or knocks on the door in random coincidence or good luck; we have seen innovation embedded in innocent remarks and observations; it is very present in analogies; sometimes we directly forged it by consciously combining powerful knowledge.
But in every case, innovation is made of faith and reason, of magic, of creativity, of focus. It is pure thrill, excitement, that unique feeling you get when you are exploring, for the first time, unchartered land
In our case, our initial innovation came out of raw need… And that is actually how everything
In order to disrupt search, such a big, humbling area, the only thing you can do is start by analyzing the whole thing, defining and structuring the space. How to eat the elephant, basically.
We challenged ourselves with finding gaps in such a competitive industry which has enjoyed decades of IT and talent capitalization. We knew we were not even specialists and were aware of our weaknesess. Our only asset was hard work and a lot of thinking out-the-box all the time. Our only strenght was to have a different approach.
Our first relevant discovery, that gave us the clue, was when we realised that search was not a benefit in itself. It was not even an objective or goal, but a means for something, a part of a process. The process of searching is just the first step towards the real desired output: finding results. Call it products in a catalogue, information in a DB or web results in an indexed Google search.
So if finding was the benefit, we just needed to design a finder. Easily said!
So we started from scratch, establishing the philosophical or theoretical layer. SEARCH is the means, finding RESULTS is the goal. This was quite obvious but nevertheless we painted the FIND process:
Could we think on a more holistic approach, a bigger space in which we find a niche to innovate?
So, ok, If SEARCH is part of a process, could we imagine, a larger chain of steps containing our process? Processes have steps, could we think of additional ones? We thought of 2 additional steps after results:
- REFINING the results lists with additional filtering and iterating the results phase till the user finally finds. Users can make use of filters and/or add search keywords to a previous search.
- Taking users from SERP (results list) to the individual PRODUCT / URL, the click-through conversion to the final enjoyment of the content. You can add several CPx steps down the conversion funnel.
Ok, interesting! And what if we could think of steps BEFORE Search? To search for something the user needs to be able to type it or say cit (voice search); express an INTENTION, basically. The own desires or interests.
The INTENTION can also be any information anchor, a rough idea or wide area of interest to start a search or research (i.e. red wine).
So the FIND process now looked like:
The process shows 2 clear blocks:
- INTENTION is user dependant. It is shaped by marketing and customer memories. INTENTION grows in the user in the form of a blended top of mind built through continuous 360° campaigns, recommendation, relevance and reach. The user brings the INTENTION to the search box and then the magic of algorithms and indexing starts, and RESULTS happen.
- SEARCH and the downstream path are technology driven. It consists of an IT&SW blackbox that serves results and means of filtering and refining them
And that is very true. The search box presents itself to the user as the mighty tool, but somehow empty, cold; it provides no inspiration, does not suggest. It duly performs its assigned task with immediate intelligence, but first it challenges the user, who has to feed it with information, needs to take the effort and the initiative. The search box is powered by the energy of the user.
So what if the user does not carry that energy, does not know the own INTENTION? What if the user does not know or remember? How to ignite that fire, break that ice?
Search boxes can be challenging to the user
If we take the area of Ecommerce, there are plenty of situations in which the user does not initially know what to buy, for instance:
- when buying a present (for others)
- when choosing food
- when picking a movie to watch
- when browsing fashion
Those are very interesting situations because they are linked to transactions and can be monetized. So, a commercial product was possible?
But before we get into business aspects, we still have to understand how to ignite customers, and understand a lot more about search.
We will come to that in our next article.
Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash