Deep Mobile Search: One Tap to Action
In today’s fast-moving world, people want to get things done. Whether it’s to navigate to your destination, play your favorite playlist in your car or order a soccer jersey before next week’s big game, users want to get tasks done quickly when they’re on the go.
It’s not sufficient to get things done by accessing the mobile web in a browser or via web search results - it’s about apps. More than 90% of the time you spend on a smartphone today is within apps. Apps provide functionality, not just information. You can book a ride, buy a ticket, board a flight, trade a stock, send money to a friend.
And, because you want to act quickly, you need to be able to get to the right function in the right app at the right time. At Quixey, we refer to this as functional search. Functions from multiple apps may serve your specific need, e.g., Pandora and Spotify can both play the top songs by your favorite artist. When you need a taxi, apps like Uber, Lyft, and Yellow Pages can serve that need. Multiple travel apps like Trip Advisor, Kayak, Airbnb and Hotel Tonight can help you book a hotel.
Quixey’s Deep Mobile Search is about providing choice and reducing time to action.
Task completion has been a goal for search engines over the years, but the focus has been on information, and web sites have not made it easy to complete tasks on the go. Traditional web search engines have not leveraged the app ecosystem, still taking users to legacy web sites that create friction to complete transactions.
Mobile devices safely hold personal data, and apps have made it easy to complete transactions across any device, whenever, wherever. The trusted apps are well known, you’re often already authenticated, you don’t need to provide personal and payment information, and can transact in a few steps.
When you’re on the go and looking to get something done, we present cards in search results that represent actions within apps. You review, make a choice, tap on the card (or explicit calls to action within the card) and you’re quickly taken into the deep state in the right app where you can instantly complete your action.
Deep Mobile Search provides a dramatically different experience than traditional informational web search; we enable actions with one tap from our deep view cards, saving users time.
Deep View Cards make it easy for users to complete transactions.
With the traditional web, every page is assigned a unique web address when created. The page contains information and potential links to other web pages and navigation is seamless. This navigation paradigm does not exist in apps. Although developers have started to explicitly add deep links to their apps, it’s not mandatory and is usually an afterthought.
Deep links were positioned to solve linking in mobile apps. But it hasn’t really happened! Deep linking standards haven’t been widely adopted, and even when adopted, have been inconsistent and incomplete. Many apps don’t provide deep links. iOS has introduced the concept of universal links, but developers need to support this explicitly in their apps. Furthermore, organizations typically have separate Android and iOS teams, and they follow diverging deep linking standards.
Hotel Tonight is an app without a web site, but it does not provide deep links to hotels or to booking actions on either platform. Facebook does not provide deep links to useful private states, such as “Nearby Friends.” Spotify and Pandora do not deep link to the most frequently used functions - personal playlists. Yelp does not deep link into interesting listings of services, e.g. hot and new restaurants nearby.
At Quixey, we can deal with this fragmented world because we work directly with apps. We analyze apps, analyze links (when present) and create paths to the right actions. We are able to optimize how quickly we can take a user to a given function and complete an action. And, we can do this on both Android and iOS.
The Hotel Tonight app has no equivalent web site and no deep link to book a hotel.
To crawl or not to crawl?
So, search is a solved problem, right? Wrong!
As mentioned, every page has a web address at birth. It’s easy to crawl and find these pages, index them and allow a search engine to search across them. Web pages link to each other, and techniques like pagerank help with ranking across sites.
However, it’s challenging to crawl apps. Further, apps typically don’t link to each other. The “standards” try to tell you how to cheat - find a page on the web that is equivalent to a state in an app. There are at least two problems:
- Many apps don’t correspond to websites, e.g., ESPN has more than 15 apps in the Play Store.
- Many apps don’t have a website, e.g., HotelTonight.
At Quixey, because we know how to find and navigate to the right functions in an app, we can crawl the app. We refer to this as Native Crawling. We can access, crawl and index apps directly - we don’t know of anyone else doing this, and we feel pretty good about that.
However, there are many cases where the traditional crawl-index-search model breaks down!
What does it mean to crawl and index Uber? How frequently (or completely) can one crawl Amazon? Do you even want a search engine to crawl and index your Facebook friends or bank account, even if possible? How can you get real-time information from crawling and indexing?
Uber and many other real-time apps don’t lend themselves to traditional indexing
Dynamic Function Matching
We want to take users to the right function for the right action. In many cases, e.g., real-time scenarios, we do this without crawling and indexing. We can take users to the right function via Function Matching. This requires us to understand what a function is about, and how to match the function to a user’s query. We parse and semantically analyze the query. User intent is extracted from various inputs, including user context and knowledge. The right functions are matched and ranked. The correct function parameters are passed at run-time. The right cards are rendered. For the right version of the app. On the right platform. Pretty hairy stuff, but it works!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll give you a deeper view into interesting technologies that we’ve been working on at Quixey, and how these are translated through deep mobile search to create compelling user experiences to help you get stuff done.
Want to try out this unique mobile search experience?Download the Quixey Mobile Search app (currently in beta for Android) from the Play Store.
Next post: It’s really personal this time!