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The Search Continues

April 6th, 2009 by Eugene Wei SVP, Audience

We’ve added some enhancements to search that some of you may have noticed and used already. Even if they’re already familiar tools, you may not have noticed all of them, so here’s a quick rundown.

First up are search shortcuts. For nearly as long as we’ve been up on the web, we’ve offered auto-complete in the search box for common searches, typically show titles. Those searches have always taken you to our regular search results page and will continue to do so, but we’ve now added some shortcut links as well in our autocomplete list.

Start typing a show title in our search box, and we’ll start to show potential matches as you type, but beneath the most likely show title match, we now offer other quick links depending on the show.

For current shows, we know from studying search navigation behavior and from our own usage of Hulu that many users who type in a show title are simply looking to watch the latest episode, so we’ve added a quick link to current shows takes you directly to the latest episode, saving you from having to navigate to the search results page and then clicking on the latest episode.

For all shows, current or not, we’ve also added a shortcut which reads “go to show page” for those of you who want to visit our overview for that show, including a list of all our episodes and clips, user reviews, discussion forums, show descriptions and cast lists, availability notes, and more. We’ve also added related searches to the autocomplete dropdown, set off below a grey horizontal line. All of these should make our search box a bit more functional and help you get you where you need to go sooner.

Hulu search shortcuts

With that same goal in mind, we’ve also launched support for a series of search operators for those of you comfortable with formulating more complex and directed queries. For a full list of those, visit our new search tips page. The search operators we’ve added are:

  • show
  • season
  • episode
  • type
  • date
  • site
  • people
  • title

Most of these operators do what you’d expect them to do based on their name, but a few warrant further explanation. To use any of these search operators, put them in your search query followed directly by a colon and then a value. Use quotation marks to specify multi-word values.

If you employ multiple search operators, we’ll treat it as an “AND” and try to satisfy all of the operators. For example, let’s say you’d like to watch every pilot episode for every TV show on our site. You could type the following search query:

season:1 episode:1 type:episode

Voila — every pilot we index, including those that aren’t streamed directly on Hulu. Until I conducted that search, I didn’t realize just how many we track, over 700 at present.

Let’s say you only wish to see episodes we stream on Hulu.com, though, and you’re curious about which of those pilots aired during the 1990′s, the height of your TV-viewing youth (I’d use the dates from my TV-viewing youth, but I’ve already taken enough of a beating about my age from my youthful coworkers). Take the original query and modify it like so:

season:1 episode:1 type:episode site:hulu date:1990-1999

Let’s shift gears. Suppose you’ve seen every episode of 30 Rock and, blown away by Alec Baldwin’s comedic performance as Jack Donaghy, you decide to dive deep into his Saturday Night Live oeuvre, having never been able to stay up late enough to catch SNL over the years. You could use this search query:

people:”alec baldwin” show:”saturday night live”

By the way, just out of curiosity, I modified the query above to use Kristen Wiig, and the number of results returned was over 4X that of the handful of other popular cast members I thought to try. Let me know if you find an SNL cast member with a larger footprint on the site.

For my last search operator example, let’s say you’re standing at the office water cooler on Monday morning and two of your coworkers are laughing hysterically and asking you if you saw the “I’m on a Boat” video over the weekend. You have no idea what they’re talking about but nod and laugh so as not to seem uncool and pop-culturally oblivious. You have no idea what show they’re referring to, but you’re fairly certain that’s the name of the video (which, by the way, is actually a unique situation as most users have no idea what the titles of TV episodes are, one of the unique issues related to TV video searches). Type this query:

title:”i’m on a boat”

And just like that, you’re on a boat, and you never thought you’d be on a boat. It’s a big, blue watery road.

I’ve only just touched on the types of fun, interesting, and useful searches you can execute using one or more of these search operators, either alone or in conjunction with others. Read over our search tips and try formulating some of your own and you’ll be a Hulu power user in no time.

With all of these search enhancements, we know there will still be times when you may scan the first page of search results and realize you need to reformulate your query. To save you some vertical scrolling, we’ve added a bottom search box to our site and will leave your most recent query in it for quick modification.

If you glance at the bottom search box, next to the Search Tips link, you’ll see a link that reads Search Plugin. If you use a browser that supports OpenSearch, click on that link to add Hulu to your browser’s search box options. Popular browsers that support OpenSearch include Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.

Give all these enhancements a whirl and let us know what you think.
Even with all of these updates, we recognize that video search is still one of the areas of greatest opportunity for elevating our users’ experience in quantum leaps. We’re still only brushing the surface. Look for many more Hulu search features in the months to come.

Eugene (),
Product Guy

Last comment: Jul 27th 2014 5 Comments
  • [...] wedding on The Office earlier this season. (You can learn more about search operators in this blog entry or by checking out our updated Search Tips [...]

  • Caitlin says:

    “You could type the following search query:

    season:1 episode:1 type:episode”

    Eugene the Product Guy. You have just made my day! (And possibly made it even more dangerous to not get enough sleep.)

    I noticed the quick links results the other day, but had’t even pondered the possibility of the multi-operator search terms. You guys are the best! Thanks for working so hard to improve an already great website.

  • rebecca says:

    Rick, Hulu now requires Flash Player 9.0.124.0 or higher. It sounds like you need to update your Flash Player software. This is free and can be done at Adobe’s site: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/.

  • Rick Romancito says:

    I am extremely disappointed in what appears to be a recent change in your streaming software. Before I was able to easily watch any show from my home computer, now all I get is an error message about not having the right Flash Player! What did you do?

  • Thank you soo much Product Guy Eugene. It was eye opening and neat, and informative, and interesting!

    Ask risk of being repetitive of others who may or may not of asked when shall we see hulu.com available internationally?

    Hulu.com I love you and keep up the good work!

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