Searching for “ode” on Google brings back the following:

“Results 110 of about 27,700,000 for ode”

27 million results. At about 10 results per page that’s about 2.7 million pages. I don’t even want to think where we come on that scale because at this point, who cares? Even so that’s a whole stack of links.

By the time I had clicked through to the 1,789,345th page I gave up. Plus at 2 secs a page load that works out at 3,578,690 seconds of time in total looking at those pages which is 59,644 hours which is 2485 days which is just over 6 years.

So either I’m travelling back in time to write this blog post from my 50 foot schooner moored of the coast of Monaco whilst working on my tan or it means I’m lying. Because for most people beyond a point numbers cease to have any meaning or function beyond curiosity. Or maybe Google is lying and hoping no one EVER clicks through to see the last page when there’s more than a 100 results. Or maybe they’re showing off.

This is why I think numbers of results/results pages are a poor guide to content selection.

A major component of ode is it’s search ability – you type in “Counting to 10” or “Climate change” or “Spanish MP3” you get a list of results back. That’s a concept we’re all familiar with. But what if you have hundreds or thousands or results to show?

And this isn’t good enough for a casual knowledge browse – we want people to buy content. Our users told us showing lots of pages or telling them there were hundreds of results actually turned them off.

So we continue to debate whether to show page numbers at all and even how many results have turned up. Even back in 2001 Jakob Neilson said:

“Users almost never look beyond the second page of search results. It is thus essential that your search prioritize results in a useful way and that all the most important hits appear on the first page.”

One argument suggests that announcing these figures is good way for the user to gauge how useful their keyword is – do they need to add further keywords e.g. “Counting to 10 + Key Stage 2 + Animals” or that an advanced search is called for?

Personally I’d be a happier customer if what I wanted turned up on the first or second page, or that sorting and filtering were set on my profile (“only show me results from Key Stage 2” or “Only show me results that are tagged video”).

Is it sometimes better to be reductive than expansive? What if we said “The search term you entered was far too broad – have another go and this time be more specific” (with a link to carry on anyway of course)?