ubExact Gives Search a Little More Personality
Google and Yahoo are so well established in my daily Internet search routine that I wasn't expecting to find anything new with a beta engine from a start-up search company. But ubExact had more than one pleasant surprise in how it lets users search.
ubExact launched its beta on Sept. 2 after spending much of its first year designing the search platform and loading a database of information and vendor links keyed to Metro Service Areas around the nation. That process will continue for some time until the end of phase one.
ubExact has a fairly novel concept behind it. It's a direct navigation, action-based search engine created to tackle search frustrations, according to Wilhelmina Stephenson, CEO of ubExact. The company's goal is to offer fast and easy searches that maximize the relevance of hits listed in search results.
"We designed our search engine around the user. So there is no need to tell users how to use it. It lets them select their own preferences. To do this, designers needed to organize searching into a vertical order and bridge them together. ubExact can thus be scalable as new topics develop," Stephenson told TechNewsWorld.
The company created a platform that could bring increased branding opportunities to advertisers through localized and targeted audiences. ubExact also protects user privacy and encourages user-contributed content. This adds a social networking community feature not done in traditional search methods.
ubExact's approach is much different from the advertising model other search platforms use. It attempts to rebuild the Web into a user-centric library to run searches based on user behavior and geo-targeted search results. Using what Stephenson calls "horizontal navigational architecture," users can directly navigate to desired brands without leaving the ubExact screen.
How It Works
In theory, this new design sounds very promising. Advertisers gain the advantage of having greater control. Because ubExact gives them the tools to track, monitor and analyze search ad ROI (return on investment), advertisers might not need a middleman to create complicated keyword optimization and link structure programs, and thus save money. Advertisers should be able to target specific regions for a more-effective ad campaign, Stephenson noted.
That may be fine for advertisers. But what do users get out of searching ubExact instead of Google or Yahoo?
Especially in searches that look for specific manufacturers or products, users will find a more pleasant and effective searching platform. I found the searching process fast and simple to use. My search results showed a lot fewer non-relevant hits than I got when running the same search terms on other search sites.
But this was only the case for some searches -- many of the country's MSA (metropolitan statistical area) zones are not yet indexed and the ubExact database is still incomplete. If I searched for items or topics outside major MSA locations, the search found nothing. This, of course, should change as ubExact loads more data into its database. Also, I was viewing a beta version of what the finished search platform will offer.
The home page lacks the look and feel of most search engine portals. A large search window adorns the top portion of the screen. Several boxes line the right edge of the screen showing search results, MSA Links and Related Topics. Actual hit results appear in the left side of the screen.
A box under the search window shows a list of links to popular search categories. The content and position of this data varies depending on where in the search process you are. For instance, when you enter a search result page, the layout changes to display sub topics. Each selection drills down more narrowly. A history list is prominently displayed so you do not have to use the back button.
ubExact's designers created this type of interface to accommodate what Stephenson discovered about how people search. Generally, she found that people search in two ways: They look for something specific or for something geographically, and often combine both approaches. So ubExact provides both avenues on its front page.
Other search features give geographical options. Users can search by city proper or Zip code and can specify the radius of miles. Unlike other search engines, ubExact taps into MSA communities, so searches are much more location specific and only show hits that actually exist in that area.
The display results include a listing of related topics to that MSA. The display screen shows a box with preferred lists and ads. This lets users know they are clicking on an add to view. From there, a link takes the searcher directly to the advertiser's Web site.
Getting to the ubExact search results is done in two ways. Users can choose the start page at ubExact. Or they can enter the search terms directly into a Web browser window without first loading the search page.
For instance, jut type "ubexactyourtopic.com" to navigate directly to the search results -- of course, you have to replace the words "yourtopic" with the actual item you're seeking. Another option is to type "ubexactyourlocationmsa.com" into the browser window. Again, use the actual city name instead of "yourlocation" to get directly to a list of search results based on that particular geographic location.
All three of these entry methods eliminate dead links, spam, unwanted ads. This direct navigation also avoids unanticipated requests for credit card and registration info.
ubExact as it currently works may be a better search tool for consumers researching a product purchase or a service. Because the database is still very limited, non-merchant searches I tried found little or no information. But this is typical for a beta search engine.
On the other hand, Stephenson plans to build in innovations by the end of phase three that could make ubExact far more useful and appealing. An added feature in will allow voice commands on mobile phones. For instance, from a mobile phone, users will be able to say: "ubExact fashion designer jeans."
ubExact will also polish up its social networking features. Stephenson sees a thriving community of users developing based on key topics. Almost like a MySpace page, ubExact will have topic experts and community overseers.