Lycos improves Finance site navigation

Lycos Inc. is hoping that a redesign of its financial Web site, combined with a new search and aggregation technology, will help draw casual traders and new users.

Beginning this week, Lycos Finance is using iPhrase Technologies Inc.'s One Step to help users find information on the site more quickly and with less navigation. One Step is natural-language query technology that can take a question and bring a user directly to the page that contains the answer -- eliminating the need to wade through a list of search results. It can also aggregate data onto a single page for questions such as, "What is the price-to-earnings ratio of Gillette and General Electric?"

"You can type in a question, and the system will navigate the menus for you," said Stan Hjartberg, executive producer of Lycos Finance. "If you can aggregate information and present it in an orderly fashion, you're ahead of the game."

The new search features, accessible from just about every page on the Lycos site, will help new users feel more comfortable, said the company. This is important when trying to draw customers away from the competition. "This gets rid of the barrier of a user saying, 'I use site X and know where everything is, so I am comfortable,' " Hjartberg said. Instead of having to learn the Lycos menus right off the bat, a user can instead enter a question to find information, he added.

Waltham, Mass.-based Lycos worked with iPhrase over a six-week period to integrate the One Step technology into the Lycos front and back end. One Step crawls and indexes static pages like a regular search engine would; programmers then add schemas for retrieving dynamic information such as stock quotes. Stock data is pulled from a central feed provided to Lycos by a third party. The core engine and index are all housed within the Lycos server farm.

Once a query request is processed, iPhrase returns the results in XML format to allow users to format the data according to their preferences. "By passing back the content with XML, we also pass back the structure and not just Web rendering, so the data can be structured into another application," said Tony Frazier, vice president of product management at Cambridge, Mass.-based iPhrase.

Hjartberg said he's pleasantly surprised by how well the technology has worked in testing, but he said users shouldn't expect an type of system. "This is a way to get discrete pieces of stock information without having to navigate menus or aggregate some data," he said. "We want to reduce user frustration as much as possible."

Currently, the iPhrase search areas cover most static information and the fundamental financial information on the Lycos Finance site. Hjartberg said that in the future, he would like to see the technology extend into the Raging Bull message-board area.

This story, "Lycos improves Finance site navigation" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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