Annotations in Web Search
Abstract: We ask how to best present social annotations on search
results, and attempt to find an answer through mixed-method eye-tracking and interview
experiments. Current practice is anchored on the assumption that faces and names draw
attention; the same presentation format is used independently of the social connection
strength and the search query topic. The key findings of our experiments indicate room
for improvement. First, only certain social contacts are useful sources of information,
depending on the search topic. Second, faces lose their well-documented power to draw
attention when rendered small as part of a social search result annotation. Third, and
perhaps most surprisingly, social annotations go largely unnoticed by users in general
due to selective, structured visual parsing behaviors specific to search result pages.
We conclude by recommending improvements to the design and content of social
annotations to make them more noticeable and useful.