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If you're asking the right question, the answer is probably Analytics

8th April 2015

‘We’ve updated the website search now,’ said Developer Dan, ‘so we can search for actors as well as films, just as you asked.'

'I like it,’ Marketing Marcie clicked happily on the development site, the search certainly seemed to be doing what she wanted.

‘Yes, the Kentico Smart Search made that really easy, just searching both document types.’ Dan sat back with a smug sense of achievement.

‘Great, which User Story shall we work on next?’ asked Ivan the Ignored.

‘What about the sort order?’ said Boss Beryl.

‘The sort order? We have a User Story for that?’ Ivan said, not realising he’d been ignored again.

‘The search is returning the results in order of relevance, just like it used to,’ Dan said, his sense of achievement wilting.

‘No, no, Beryl means this “sort” dropdown list,’ Marcie explained. ‘You can choose to sort the results alphabetically or by release date.’

‘Oh right, I’d forgotten about that,’ Dan said, slightly ashamed of his oversight. ‘That won’t make much sense now, sorting actors by release date. It probably sorts actors by their date of birth.’

Beryl wasn’t impressed. The date sort put either all the films first or all the actors first. She was quite convinced that if she was using it she’d expect a better result than that.

‘Can’t we use something other than their date of birth? The date of their most recent film perhaps?’ she said.

Dan shuddered at the thought of that kind of query. ‘That’s a bit complicated.’

‘But like this it just doesn’t make sense,’ Beryl insisted.

‘Can we do it without spending any more money?’ said Moneybags Mona.

Beryl huffed about how she shouldn’t end up having to pay for Dan’s oversight.‘What do you think, Marcie?’

Marcie was thinking about whether there was enough wine for when she got home. There had been those couple of bottles of Merlot, but she was certain she’d already drunk at least one of them. She’d have to pick up a bottle on the way home. Should she go for the Shiraz or the Pinot Noir? The Pinot was nicer but the Shiraz was cheaper, so she could get more of it. You can never have too much wine.

‘Marcie?’

‘Oh, sorry, yes, if you pick ‘Coming Soon’ from the sort, all the actors disappear.’

‘Date of birth,’ Dan muttered.

‘What if we renamed the options so they’re not sounding like they just refer to films?’ Ivan said.

‘The alphabetic sort works,’ Dan said.

‘Yes, we could call that option “Name a-z” instead of “Title a-z”’‘That should be easy?’ Mona said hopefully.

‘Why?’ asked New Developer Neville.

Everyone looked. That’s why Neville didn’t like to speak up in meetings, everyone looked at him and he really didn’t like that. That’s why he became a developer in the first place.‘Why do you want to sort the search results?’ he said hesitantly.

Beryl insisted it made sense. She wasn’t sure exactly how, but she certainly wasn’t going to accept being told that something they’d invested so much time in wasn’t sensible. Mona agreed. They’d spent good money on that. Dan wasn’t sure. Marcie was leaning towards two bottles of the Shiraz. Ivan thought the users would be upset if they couldn’t sort the results.

‘Does anyone use it? I mean, apart from us, testing it now, does anyone use that dropdown?’ Neville blurted it out and then considered ducking under the desk to avoid the angry outburst that it would inevitably produce. All it produced was confusion. Nobody knew for sure, and suddenly it seemed quite plausible that they were arguing about a part of the website that nobody used.

That afternoon, after a quick bit of research in Kentico Analytics, Neville was able to demonstrate his hunch was right. Of the 75,000 searches on the site that day, only 16 had bothered to sort their results. It took less time to remove the superfluous control from the web page than they’d already spent arguing over how it ought to work. They just needed to ask the right question, and to remember the value in their analytics.

There was a promotion on the Pinot Noir so, as it was down to nearly the same price as the Shiraz, Marcie bought a bottle of each to celebrate.