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When displaying suggested articles that are unique to the user, based on a personalisation algorithm, should the user be told that the articles have been targeted to them?

Would it be bad practice to just include articles in a list of search results or should you separate/flag them as "recommended"?

  • My Google search results are personalized but I'm not (visually) aware of that. I'm pretty happy with this approach because it doesn't add any noise to UI and it's search engine expected behavior (at least nowadays). If you want to make it explicit (because it's an unique feature of your web-site then you want to do some advertising) you may simply add a title line before result list, something like "Suggested for you". It's what on-line shops do when they present recommended products according to your shopping history. – Adriano Repetti Nov 16 '15 at 16:20
  • I suppose because you've searched for something specific, you expect the results to be tailored to the request you've made, which isn't unique but it's niche. If those search results were also presented based on your viewing history, for example, you'd want something to clarify or enough of a cue that it's implied. – Ben Harvey Nov 17 '15 at 16:48
  • Not really, at least if results are not filtered according to my history/location/preferences. In that case yes, I'd want to know it because I may miss something however if ordering is changed because of that then I don't need that information (but, of course, if you have a sort order control then you may highlight this with sorted by relevance). – Adriano Repetti Nov 17 '15 at 16:59
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User should preferably be the one in control. Which simply means, there should be a way (now that could be as intended by the interface and the context), for the user to know what is going on - and if needed, alter that.

I like Medium's approach as a related example - For a signed in user(meaning to say for whom there is personalisation possibility) - home page shows Top Stories for you, but with a clean close button. See screenshot -

enter image description here

Now, if I possibly intend to check other/all stories, I hit close, and it loads the default set (in some order of course). So the essence is user being in control.

In most cases, expected user behaviour could be of not opting to close, but just knowing that I(user) am in control - makes the user feel better.

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It's a problem similar to showing/hiding advanced functionality. In case there are people who will want to see content that is not personalized, give them the option. And, state clearly that the results are personalized. But adding clutter to the basic functionality (default personalized results) is not a good idea.

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