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Review: Ujiko

Ujiko is a "customizable" Internet search application by the makers of Kartoo metasearch. The Kartoo team has a history of creating fantastic Flash-based visualizations for mapping document clusters, social networks, and other data.

A "Customizable" Search Engine?

Ujiko rewards users for visiting search results by enabling new customization features for every 10 results visited. The customizations enable users to change the colors and other appearence aspects of the application. I find this set of features distracting and I think Ujiko does much more interesting stuff, so I'm choosing to not to address customization in this review.

Guided Search Through Topic Clustering

Like Kartoo, Ujiko clusters results by topic. Users are encouraged to drill down within results by selecting topics rather than by refining the text of their search. The notion is familiar (see Teoma (now, Clusty, and others), but Ujiko's unique user interface enables topical navigation in new ways:

Partial Screenshot: Search for "bonobo" with mouse over "gnome"

The centerpiece of the user interface, a "circle graph", drives topical navigation via an intuitive, color-coded control. The control acknowledges that results may relate to more than one topic, making topics more tag-like than categorical (though I've yet to see a result related to more then 2 topics). It's easy to see which results are related to each specific topic, and just as easy zoom in to that topic.

Some Downside

  • After selecting a topic, I couldn't find a way to go back. I'd really like to be able to "zoom" in and out and see the path I took to arrive at the results currently displayed.
  • Topic information wasn't available for a lot of results (especially after the first page). To really encourage users to navigate by topic (the real value-add of this application), the information needs to be consistently available.
  • The authors have gone to a lot of trouble to squeeze all of the results and topic navigation onto one screen but a lot of screen real estate is consumed by non-functional style elements and "customizations".
  • Results don't have any annotation text to help users understand why they were selected.
  • The previous / next page controls seem a little out of place. There is no "page" metaphor in this application.


I think Ujiko has an interesting and useful method for for representing and navigating topic-clustered search results. As a whole, Ujiko's features aren't yet compelling enough to make it my primary search engine, but the user interface elements hilighted in this review show a lot of promise for the future.