Quick, what’s the ZIP code for Georgetown? How about Clarendon?
Unless you live in one of these areas, chances are you don’t know. I might as well have asked you for the longitude and latitude. Yet almost every local search product requires people to think like computers – to type in a ZIP code to set their location to begin searching. As an alternative, you can type in a city and state. Then you’ll likely get results far from where you want to be, based on the center of the city.
When I go out, I think “I want to go to Georgetown” or Ballston or Tyson’s or Penn Quarter. I have no idea what the ZIP code for any of those areas is. This method of searching doesn’t work for residents, much less visitors.
It wouldn’t be that hard for search engines to accomodate such searches. Vindigo has been doing it for handheld devices for some time. Sure, there will be some disagreement over where the exact center of a neighborhood is. But even an approximation would deliver much better results in a more user friendly way than you get today.
On the flip side, search engines make it more difficult than it needs to be when they return results. Do a search for Chicken Out in 22203 (Ballston) and you’ll see that it’s at 4238 Wilson Blvd. It’s one click to map it. But if the result also stated that Chicken Out was at Ballston Common Mall, people familiar with the area would know where it is without the extra click.