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The New Hoover's: Simple. Comprehensive. Unified.
by
Posted On March 6, 2006
Simple and elegant, Hoover's new beta interface (http://beta.hoovers.com) evokes the "Power of Simplicity" in this 21st century Web site makeover. Hoover's (http://www.hoovers.com), a D&B company, is one of the best sources for business information, especially industries, companies, and executives. Hoover's customers gain a competitive edge through insightful editorials, a unique data collection, and an easy-to-read presentation. The recent redesign of the company's paid site is professional, clutter-free, and easy to use, bringing Hoover's look to "the next level."

Paul Pellman of EVP Marketing had several project goals in mind while developing and implementing Hoover's new beta interface: a new, improved, simple search function; a unified database designed to integrate Hoover's data with data from its parent, D&B; and a streamlined redesign of the paid site interface, with elements previously tested on Hoover's free Web site.

Simple. Home Page Search Screen Comfort

From the moment one logs onto Hoover's home page, the redesigned, simple search box looks cleaner and behaves more intuitively, resulting in more accurately targeted search results. A dark blue background provides a visual contrast to the white search page, allowing the customer to focus on a smaller area of onscreen information. Much of the clutter of the classic Hoover's search page has been streamlined, thus eliminating the frustration of information overload.
Click for larger image
Click for larger image

On the left of the screen, the search box appears with four tabs directing the searcher to broad search categories, replacing the 10 classic radio buttons. Searchers who click one of the four tabs will reach a set of options for Companies (company name, product name, stock ticker, D-U-N-S number, etc.), People (name, company name, alma mater, job title, etc.), Industries (industry name, product name, SIC code, NAICS code, etc.), and News (name, company name, product name, stock ticker, etc.).

Reinforcing the concept of "simple," the "Advanced Searches" section—and its links to the many Hoover's databases—is gone. Five tabs—Build a List, Run a Saved Search, Access My Watch List, Manage my Email Alerts, and Manage my Newsletters—integrate and replace both the "Advanced Search" section and the five buttons once located at the top right of the classic Hoover's screen. Hoover's icons have been replaced with easily recognizable, standardized icons. This information is alternately available under the pull-down menus labeled "Tools" and "My Hoover's," which are hidden when not needed.

Once a search is executed, dynamic filters allow customer refining of target results. From the comfort of the home search page, customers can drill down several levels, narrowing results within five categories: location, sales, employees, company type, and location type. Search results change dynamically as criteria are selected.

Comprehensive. Powerful List-Building Tool

The new streamlined list-building tool is designed to more closely reflect how customers work and use information. Hoover's new search function incorporates its "best in class" search technology to enable customers to leverage its proprietary company taxonomy. After years of experience, Pellman says the "Secret Sauce" of the search interface is its ability to intuitively know what the customer is seeking. For example, if the customer types "Apple," the search engine intuitively knows to look for "Apple Computer."

Seven criteria are available for building a list. They appear in a collapsed view. The default when list building is Company Location, Company Size, Industry, Company Type, People, Financial Data, and Specialty Criteria. The customer controls whether or not to expand the view on any or all of the criteria, further helping to reduce page clutter. The dynamic "Total Results" number, located on the bottom, left-hand side of this page, changes as up to 50 fields of search criteria are added or removed. This results feedback assists the customer by providing a running count of search results from the comfort of the search page. By observing changes in real time, the customer can control the level of frustration typically encountered when retrieving zero results.

Unified Database

Hoover's redesign reflects how customers work and provides quicker access to Hoover's information and tools. The comprehensive, unified database combines Hoover's content with parent company D&B's content, providing a single, comprehensive, accurate, and insightful view of company information. In the classic interface with the green headings linked to several databases, the customer had to leave the search page to locate results. Hoover's beta interface looks cleaner and has one unified database. One unique record exists for each company. Results are sorted with the most in-depth records at the top of the list, using content-depth indicators.

Content-depth indicators alert the customer to the level of detail to expect. Three blue dots indicates a comprehensive company record, which includes all worldwide public companies that trade on a major stock exchange and private companies identified as leaders by Hoover's business experts. Two blue dots indicate an in-depth company record for a small to mid-sized company with at least 10 employees and at least $1 million revenue. Basic company records, for small companies with at least five employees, are marked with one blue dot.

Hoover's Customer-Driven Design Process

Michael Reiff, vice president of product design, explained the customer-oriented design process. Site design is developed through directly incorporated feedback from customers. Fundamental changes to the overall interface were driven by customer input. "Our current Beta period provides customers another opportunity to provide feedback prior to the new site officially launching." According to Reiff, the beta testing will extend through March and probably into April, and it must satisfy and exceed the expectations of Hoover's customers.

Customer feedback, generated through various sources such as focus groups and customer labs, was conducted well before redesign and beta testing began. Changes were made to the free site first and then incorporated into the subscription site, providing Hoover's with essential feedback. "Tell us what you think" links are also gathering valuable feedback of the current Beta site. Hoover's classic Web site was benchmarked in several measurable areas such as the speed of search, ease of search, how fast pages load, and launching of the list-building tool. These benchmarking standards will be incorporated into the new beta version.

An online search on the new site demonstrates that the power of simplicity shines through in the greatly streamlined home page. Creating the simplified search interface in four key areas—company, people, industry, and news—has reduced the frustration experienced by customers faced with classic Hoover's 10 radio button choices. A single, unified company record database facilitates searching by eliminating the confusion of deciding if Hoover's In-Depth, D&B Basic, D&B In-Depth, or D&B International databases are the right place to search.

Searching for "Apple" produced 7,930 records. Intuitively knowing the customer means Apple Computer places the company at the top of the results list. If "Apple" is not part of a company name but is referred to in another section of the record, a "snippetization" containing the term appears in bold type.

The search results list is tabular by Company Name, Location, Sales, and Company Type. These columns help the customer to narrow in on the target company. A variety of "sorts" such as Relevance, A to Z Company, and Z to A City, assist the customer. Filters on the left-hand column help customers drill down and narrow search results through Location, Sales, Employees, and Company Type. Whenever possible, the search does the work for the customer.

Hoover's classic "Fact Sheet" worked well with customers and received only minor tweaks.

The "List Building Tool" is the biggest change to the site.Hoover's received very positive feedback on this tool, which currently searches 5,648,057 company records. ProPlus and ProPremium subscriptions include free downloads of the list to an Excel spreadsheet.

Eminently Useable

With a more powerful search function and list-building capability and simplified search results that can be further refined for better targeting in a tabular, sorted format, customers can immediately see the results of each selected criteria in their results set. Hoover's one unified company database, which consolidates the four previous databases, allows for more accurate results and quicker access. The complexity of list-building tools is simplified. The paid site redesign is cleaner and simpler. Overall, Hoover's has done an outstanding job with the new redesign. Knowing what its customers want and how its customers search allows easier access to Hoover's business data.


Deborah A. Liptak is owner of info2go (http://www.debsinfo2go.us) and recently authored an article on Hoover's Online for Searcher magazine ("Hoover's Vacuum: ‘Wish You Were Here,'" February 2006).

Email Deborah A. Liptak
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