Unideal Less cowbell.

Crowdsourced Document Annotation: Using your vertical crowd.

  • Jun 12th, 2011


This project explores the application of modern design patterns to crowdsourced document annotation. I combine game elements with improved aesthetics and interactions to encourage a publisher’s existing audience to work for them in exchange for publisher-specific rewards.

I’ve done very limited user testing of the system, so it currently serves as more of a demonstration than proof of these concepts. A modified version of this prototype is being readied for internal use at a publication. I’ll post more details and some measure of success or failure once it has seen some use.

Read the exciting paper and description of the demo here:


Design Guidelines for Faceted Search

  • Feb 19th, 2011

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Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.43.44 PMThis paper is a literature review of relevant research on the design of faceted search interfaces. The work here was the foundation for the redesign of a new Hemmings.com classifieds search interface now in production.

Design Considerations for Faceted Search Read the paper: Faceted Search Literarure Review and Implementation


Reviewing and synthesizing relevant academic literature is a solid approach to any major product initiative and Google Scholar makes it a lot easier than it used to be. Comps and heuristic approaches can get you most of the way there but adding grounding based on academic work adds a new dimension of ideas and validation.

It’s interesting to look at the Delta between my presented “ideal” version of the interface and then compare where it ended up as a production interface incorporating the inertia and natural politics of an established web property along with the limitations of development tools and time frames. Constraints, not excuses! I’m very happy with our version 1.0 system.

Under the hood, Hemmings’ classifieds search is powered by a clustered SOLR search engine using a pretty standard set of query parsers. In addition, we’ve tapped into the excellent Spatial SOLR plugin from Jteam for geographic searches. I’m really satisfied with the performance, management overhead and extensibility of this setup.

This work has not been published in any journals but serves as a decent review of the fundamentals underlying this type of interface. My goal from the outset was to produce a product rather than do any new research or insights, and the paper reflects it. Let me know if you find it useful or would like to talk more about faceted search.

Design Synthesis – Watching the Horologists

  • Mar 17th, 2010

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I recently interviewed a group of watchmakers and used the resulting information to produce a series of interaction and concept diagrams for one of my iSchool classes. Everything is posted on a small sub-site to gather together the design artifacts.

Semantic Zoom Plus 1

These diagramming and exploration methods employ contextual inquiry to quickly generate insights. This work is based on 3 hours of primary contextual interviews with horologists in their offices along with 2 hours of secondary research. It produced surprisingly detailed information. The horologists I interviewed were very fun people and the concepts involved in their work are under-documented. It’s worth a look.

Check it out

© 2021 Unideal = Steve Berry, Austin, TX