Ease of googling

28Nov05

When you are looking for information on the net, which search engine do you prefer? Chances are that you use google first. Not to forget that Google is the first (and only?) search engine name to be verbized.

I was reading about the blind tests on relevance of search engines; the results showed that roughly 58% of those who took the survey found msn / yahoo results most relevant.

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Seth Godin interprets this on his blog to show that people prefer google because it feels better – over 50% cannot be wrong. Sure, Godin’s point is irrefutable – user comfort comes from the “feel factor” and design. Personally, I like using google because I feel mosty comfortable with the search site (and I have never compared results with others so far).

But is that the truth behind the results? What about the 42% who felt that google results were indeed the most relevant? What was it about three kinds of lies, one of them being statistics. In this survey, the test was not between google versus msn+yahoo; it was a three way test. And google clearly had the highest score. Simple majority as in the case of elections. Even if a majority of voters do not vote for a candidate, (s)he wins if (s)he has more percentage of the votes than any of the others.

And then the other thing about blind tests. No, this is not the same as Pepsi versus Coke blind taste tests. Pepsi and Coke are parity products (will I get sued for saying this; my excuse is that this is my persoanl opinion), but are vastly different as brands. And here, branding and brand imagery play a vital role. To the young (and the young at heart), Coke may taste better in a Pepsi bottle, largely due to the image that Pepsi has built over years. As opposed to this msn, yahoo and google are different products – they look, feel and behave differently.

Having said that, I come back to my original point. Even in such categories, branding (of which design is a significant element) is a significant factor in establishing user comfort and loyalty. Godin says it best here – Music sounds better through an iPod because we think it does. Design matters. Stories matter most of all.

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2 Responses to “Ease of googling”

  1. I agree completely. Blind tests of any kind, in any category, assume a rationality in our decision making that simply does not exist. We don’t ‘break up’ our experiences into components and evaluate each part individually – that doesn’t happen in real life, and there’s no reason why it should happen in research. If the ‘package’ works, it works … if it doesn’t, the answer rarely lies in tinkering with individual components.


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