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Top 10 lessons learned while rebuilding Instagram Search

The Scoop

Here are some simple tips to make a better search experience on mobile.

Search Top 10

  1. The best way to make search feel fast is to already have the answers on the phone. (local caching)
  2. The second best way to make search feel fast is to set results for a given query, say “lad” and results in the same response from the server for most likely next letters, like “lady” “ladd”
  3. Don’t overcomplicate your definition of a search session. See how others have done it.
  4. Total Search volume is a decent indicator of improvements, but alone can be dangerous. A crappier search experience causes more searches to find something.
  5. Logistic regressions. Anything more spicey like Neural Networks should only be played with after you have hit diminishing returns on your simple logistic regressions.
  6. 8–10 features in your ranking model, max. It’s often that 3–4 features have most of the predictive power.
  7. Test a minimum of 2 models a week.
  8. Make sure to support the two main search intents, trying to find a specific person, and trying to browse many people.
  9. A dynamic typeahead that returns results before the user is done typing is as important as ranking. However, consider only sending queries to the server 150ms after the last key press.
  10. Handling misspellings and foreign characters, for example “ö” to “o”, can immediately improve your top line metrics 3–5%.