Pinterest creates a more intuitive place search

Pinterest, the social scrapbook, is streamlining its place search for both web and mobile to help folks as they put Place Pins on digital maps to point out interesting places, as detailed on a blog post by Pinterest software engineer Jon Parise.

Because Pinterest currently counts over one billion travel pins in more than 300 countries and territories, it’s important that the company ensures that its search mechanism is seamless and intuitive for its many users. It used to be that when a person would try searching for a specific place in Pinterest, the interface was split into two parts that accounted for the “what” and “where” of a place search inquiry, as in the case for someone searching for “city hall” and “San Francisco.”

That is no longer the case as the two search variables are now combined in a single search bar to address the fact that a lot of users simply scrawl down both the “what” and the “where” in one search bar instead of entering the two pieces of information in two separate boxes.

Pinterest graphic showing one-box search

Pinterest graphic showing one-box search

By using the Foursquare-developed open source geocoder Twofishes, the two different search variables can be split up in the same search box and recognized as two distinct inquires. Additionally, if a person were to search for a specific city that happens to share its name with several other cities, Twofishes can display a whole list of possible cities the user might be looking for.

From the post:

We use the result of the query splitting pass to configure our place search. Foursquare is our primary place data provider, and Foursquare venue search requests can be parameterized to search globally or within a set of geospatial constraints.

As more users dump search inquires into Pinterest’s search bar, the search engine gets smarter and can generate different search results:

A single query can produce multiple venue search requests. Continuing with our example, we would issue one search for “city hall” within the bounds of “san francisco” and as well as a global search for the entire original query string “city hall san francisco”. This approach helps us find places that have geographic names in their place names, like “Boston Market” and “Pizza Chicago”.

With multiple search results to choose from, the Pinterest system can group them together in a list based on their relevance ranking, allowing the user to see if the results matched what he intended to look for.

The new search capabilities are live on iOS and the company’s web site with Android coming soon, wrote Parise.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock user Gualberto Becerra