Exploring the query halo effect in site search : leading people to longer queries

Hiemstra, Djoerd and Hau, Claudia and Azzopardi, Leif; (2017) Exploring the query halo effect in site search : leading people to longer queries. In: SIGIR '17 Proceedings of the 40th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval. ACM, JPN, pp. 981-984. ISBN 9781450350228 (https://doi.org/10.1145/3077136.3080696)

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People tend to type short queries, however, the belief is that longer queries are more effective. Consequently, a number of attempts have been made to encourage and motivate people to enter longer queries. While most have failed, a recent attempt - conducted in a laboratory setup - in which the query box has a halo or glow effect, that changes as the query becomes longer, has been shown to increase query length by one term, on average. In this paper, we test whether a similar increase is observed when the same component is deployed in a production system for site search and used by real end users. To this end, we conducted two separate experiments, where the rate at which the color changes in the halo were varied. In both experiments users were assigned to one of two conditions: halo and no-halo. The experiments were ran over a fifty day period with 3,506 unique users submitting over six thousand queries. In both experiments, however, we observed no significant difference in query length. We also did not find longer queries to result in greater retrieval performance. While, we did not reproduce the previous findings, our results indicate that the query halo effect appears to be sensitive to performance and task, limiting its applicability to other contexts.