Closed Bug 1219754 Opened 4 years ago Closed 4 years ago

Search engine results in the location bar hurt awesomebar's usability for finding visited pages

Categories

(Firefox :: Address Bar, defect, P1)

defect

Tracking

()

RESOLVED FIXED
Firefox 45
Tracking Status
firefox43 --- verified
firefox44 --- fixed
firefox45 --- fixed

People

(Reporter: ehsan, Assigned: past)

Details

(Whiteboard: [unifiedcomplete][fxsearch][suggestions])

Attachments

(1 file, 1 obsolete file)

Before search suggestions, I used to rely on the awesome bar for finding pages I had visited before quite heavily by typing a few words inside it, and the visited page used to be usually listed in one of the 12 entries.

Now, when I do the same thing, I always get one entry in there saying "Search with Yahoo", and usually a few search suggestions, and I typically don't get more than 5-6 history entries, so most of the 12 entries in the awesome bar auto complete lose their value to me.  (The exact numbers are hard to pin down since the behavior seems to be different every single time, even when typing the exact same words.  I can't really tell what the underlying algorithm is.)

As a result, I find myself more and more often using the History sidebar (something that I haven't used in years!) but that's really not the same since it doesn't take frecency into account.  You can either sort by date or most visited but not by frecency.

As a result of all of this, I can't really find many visited pages, so the awesomebar's original functionality seems to go away with search suggestions.

Perhaps we can go back to showing 12 results from your history, and any search suggestions would be shown additionally?
Adding Shorlander. The number of suggests/results is something we've debated, and will likely tweak depending on feedback. Nick's team has also been looking at different ways of presenting as well, so this is something to watch and dive a little deeper into.
(In reply to Ehsan Akhgari (don't ask for review please) [Away Nov 3-19] from comment #0)
> Now, when I do the same thing, I always get one entry in there saying
> "Search with Yahoo"

This is not a real result, it's an "action" row, but yes, it reduces the results from 12 to 11. fwiw we have telemetry showing that basically only 0.07% uses the 12th match, so this should have an uninteresting impact on results usability. In future this row may be merged back to the input field. But let's assume this is uninteresting for this specific bug.

> , and usually a few search suggestions, and I typically
> don't get more than 5-6 history entries, so most of the 12 entries in the
> awesome bar auto complete lose their value to me.(The exact numbers are
> hard to pin down since the behavior seems to be different every single time,
> even when typing the exact same words.  I can't really tell what the
> underlying algorithm is.)

the behavior can change depending on the pages you visited in the meanwhile, plus the adaptive result (usually the first one). it should be consistent apart from that.

First of all, I can ensure you that all results are still reachable, the code has been built so that we always provide a minimum number of local results, exactly to allow the users to reach ANY page. But that requires typing a little bit more in the search string, cause if you just type a few letters you will likely get more frecent results first and weak matches will be pushed out (there's not much space). So by typing some more chars you should be able to reach all the results.

Now, we have 2 knobs we can tweak:

1. const FRECENCY_DEFAULT = 1000; by reducing this, we'd allow more local results to push out remote results, anything with frecency > FRECENCY_DEFAULT pushes out search suggestions. this value is quite low and most pages visited in the last 30 days should go over it.

2. const MINIMUM_LOCAL_MATCHES = 5; this is the minimum number of local matches we try to show (if available) before search suggestions. increasing this too much means search suggestions will go down in the list, it was picked based on the fact we were aiming at 8 results, having 4 local results  and 3 remote results looke like a good initial balance. We could increase it to 6, or don't count the action row as a local match...

The equilibrium here is "fragile" and we clearly risk to balance too much towards one side, so we must proceed iteratively.
Note that if a result has a very low frecency (like you didn't visit it in the last 30 days and you visited it rarely in the past) we can't do much, the fact you found it in the 12 results may be just "luck". These kind of results have always required a little bit more typing effort, and will keep doing.

> Perhaps we can go back to showing 12 results from your history, and any
> search suggestions would be shown additionally?

we were actually aiming to REDUCE those 12 results to 8, but that's another story, we first need a oneline layout.

tl;dr: for now I'd suggest to increase the minimum local matches from 5 to 6 and see if things improve. If our future target becomes 10 results instead of 8, we could even go further and set it to 7. This clearly means search suggestions will be lower in the list by 1 or 2 positions.
(In reply to Marco Bonardo [::mak] from comment #2)
> (In reply to Ehsan Akhgari (don't ask for review please) [Away Nov 3-19]
> from comment #0)
> > Now, when I do the same thing, I always get one entry in there saying
> > "Search with Yahoo"
> 
> This is not a real result, it's an "action" row, but yes, it reduces the
> results from 12 to 11. fwiw we have telemetry showing that basically only
> 0.07% uses the 12th match, so this should have an uninteresting impact on
> results usability. In future this row may be merged back to the input field.
> But let's assume this is uninteresting for this specific bug.

Well, I don't have data, but I would suspect that most people really don't scroll through the list, and will probably only see 6 entries on the screen, which means that now the number is down to 5, which is even worse than going from 12 to 11.  So this can definitely cut both ways.

> > , and usually a few search suggestions, and I typically
> > don't get more than 5-6 history entries, so most of the 12 entries in the
> > awesome bar auto complete lose their value to me.(The exact numbers are
> > hard to pin down since the behavior seems to be different every single time,
> > even when typing the exact same words.  I can't really tell what the
> > underlying algorithm is.)
> 
> the behavior can change depending on the pages you visited in the meanwhile,
> plus the adaptive result (usually the first one). it should be consistent
> apart from that.

Yeah, I admit that I haven't paid quite close attention to this since this is about my main Firefox profile, so you're probably right on that.

> First of all, I can ensure you that all results are still reachable, the
> code has been built so that we always provide a minimum number of local
> results, exactly to allow the users to reach ANY page. But that requires
> typing a little bit more in the search string, cause if you just type a few
> letters you will likely get more frecent results first and weak matches will
> be pushed out (there's not much space). So by typing some more chars you
> should be able to reach all the results.

Hmm, that hasn't been my experience.  I usually hit either of the two issues:

* I cannot remember more words that let me narrow things down enough, and I can't find what I'm looking for in the history results.  I sometimes try different words, but usually the result is me giving up.
* I keep adding words to the point that I lose all autocomplete results except for the "Search with Yahoo" result.

> Now, we have 2 knobs we can tweak:
> 
> 1. const FRECENCY_DEFAULT = 1000; by reducing this, we'd allow more local
> results to push out remote results, anything with frecency >
> FRECENCY_DEFAULT pushes out search suggestions. this value is quite low and
> most pages visited in the last 30 days should go over it.
> 
> 2. const MINIMUM_LOCAL_MATCHES = 5; this is the minimum number of local
> matches we try to show (if available) before search suggestions. increasing
> this too much means search suggestions will go down in the list, it was
> picked based on the fact we were aiming at 8 results, having 4 local results
> and 3 remote results looke like a good initial balance. We could increase it
> to 6, or don't count the action row as a local match...
> 
> The equilibrium here is "fragile" and we clearly risk to balance too much
> towards one side, so we must proceed iteratively.
> Note that if a result has a very low frecency (like you didn't visit it in
> the last 30 days and you visited it rarely in the past) we can't do much,
> the fact you found it in the 12 results may be just "luck". These kind of
> results have always required a little bit more typing effort, and will keep
> doing.

Yeah, tweaking this the right way is definitely challenging, but I hope that we can use it better.  It would be nice to have some of the awesomeness of awesomebar back, at least, if not all of it.

I don't really know about the implementation enough to be able to help in a concrete way.  If you do change the values I can pay attention and tell you whether things are better or not.  Since I depend on the awesomebar quite heavily, I am impacted by its absence in obvious ways.

> > Perhaps we can go back to showing 12 results from your history, and any
> > search suggestions would be shown additionally?
> 
> we were actually aiming to REDUCE those 12 results to 8, but that's another
> story, we first need a oneline layout.

Oh, that's so sad to hear.  :(  May I ask how that would improve things?
(In reply to Ehsan Akhgari (don't ask for review please) [Away Nov 3-19] from comment #3)
> Yeah, tweaking this the right way is definitely challenging, but I hope that
> we can use it better.  It would be nice to have some of the awesomeness of
> awesomebar back, at least, if not all of it.

As a side note, you can disable search suggestions in Options /Search if you don't think they are useful to you... Then you get back the 12 results.

> > we were actually aiming to REDUCE those 12 results to 8, but that's another
> > story, we first need a oneline layout.
> 
> Oh, that's so sad to hear.  :(  May I ask how that would improve things?

As you noticed the current layout is not very usable due to the scrollbar, removing the scrollbar is likely the way to go, but we also can't completely cover content with results. I think 8 results was taken as a good compromise between the 2 and telemetry seems to agree with that (the percentages after the eighth match are extremely low). On the other side seeing we keep adding content, I'd probably vote for 10. Btw this won't happen until we have the new awesomebar theme implemented so we have time do adjust things.

If Stephen agrees with that, I will file a bug to increase the minimum number of results to 6 or 7, depending if the future target is 8 or 10.
Flags: needinfo?(shorlander)
(In reply to Marco Bonardo [::mak] from comment #4)
> (In reply to Ehsan Akhgari (don't ask for review please) [Away Nov 3-19]
> from comment #3)
> > Yeah, tweaking this the right way is definitely challenging, but I hope that
> > we can use it better.  It would be nice to have some of the awesomeness of
> > awesomebar back, at least, if not all of it.
> 
> As a side note, you can disable search suggestions in Options /Search if you
> don't think they are useful to you... Then you get back the 12 results.

Yes, I have done that now.  FWIW I didn't turn these search suggestions on because I think they're useful or a good idea but as I understand we're interested in enabling this for our users, so I'm just trying to dogfood what our users will see.

> > > we were actually aiming to REDUCE those 12 results to 8, but that's another
> > > story, we first need a oneline layout.
> > 
> > Oh, that's so sad to hear.  :(  May I ask how that would improve things?
> 
> As you noticed the current layout is not very usable due to the scrollbar,
> removing the scrollbar is likely the way to go, but we also can't completely
> cover content with results. I think 8 results was taken as a good compromise
> between the 2 and telemetry seems to agree with that (the percentages after
> the eighth match are extremely low). On the other side seeing we keep adding
> content, I'd probably vote for 10. Btw this won't happen until we have the
> new awesomebar theme implemented so we have time do adjust things.
> 
> If Stephen agrees with that, I will file a bug to increase the minimum
> number of results to 6 or 7, depending if the future target is 8 or 10.

OK, thank you!
Priority: -- → P1
Whiteboard: [unifiedcomplete][fxsearch][suggestions]
Rank: 8
Attached patch Patch v1 (obsolete) — Splinter Review
Here is a patch with the change Marco indicated to try out. I've ordered some try builds, so everyone interested, and Stephen in particular, is welcome to download them and see how they fare.

After a while you will be able to find the builds for all platforms here:

http://archive.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/try-builds/pastithas@mozilla.com-7708b5e7cd6e589850372b973037341df6b4673b/
Stephen, Kev: have you tried out the builds above and reached a conclusion yet? Personally, I prefer the increased number of local results.
Flags: needinfo?(kev)
We discussed this at the team meeting yesterday and the consensus was to move forward with this slight improvement.
Flags: needinfo?(shorlander)
Flags: needinfo?(kev)
https://hg.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/rev/0a713afacf80
Status: NEW → RESOLVED
Closed: 4 years ago
Resolution: --- → FIXED
Target Milestone: --- → Firefox 45
Assignee: nobody → past
we may try to ask for approval asap and see what release drivers thing of Beta. The change is quite safe but we're also late.
Flags: needinfo?(past)
Attached patch Final patchSplinter Review
Attachment #8687271 - Attachment is obsolete: true
Flags: needinfo?(past)
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: review+
Comment on attachment 8696254 [details] [diff] [review]
Final patch

Approval Request Comment
[Feature/regressing bug #]: this was a result of introducing search suggestions (bug 1162140?)
[User impact if declined]: old users who used to rely on the awesome bar for finding pages they had visited before and have now opted in to search suggestions, will in some cases not find what they were looking for
[Describe test coverage new/current, TreeHerder]: unit test and manual testing
[Risks and why]: tiny risk, the change is really trivial
[String/UUID change made/needed]: none
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-beta?
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-aurora?
Comment on attachment 8696254 [details] [diff] [review]
Final patch

Minor tweak to balance awesomebar and search suggestions, ok to uplift. 
This should make it into Monday's RC build for the 43 release.
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-beta?
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-beta+
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-aurora?
Attachment #8696254 - Flags: approval-mozilla-aurora+
Verified Firefox 43.0 RC build 1 under Win 7 64-bit, Ubuntu 14.04 32-bit and Mac OS X 10.11.1.

The history items are increased by one, while the suggestions entries are decreased by one item (compared to Firefox 43 beta 9).

In most cases, in 43 beta there were 4 history items and 7 suggestions (except the first entry that was either "search with" or "visit url") - the RC build now has 5 history items and 6 suggestions.

Apart from this, one case where there were 8 history items and 3 suggestions in Firefox 43 beta, remained the same in Firefox 43.0RC.
In another case, for one entry, I had 3 history items and 8 suggestions. In 43.0RC there were 4 history items and 7 suggestions.

Marking as verified.
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