Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jakob Nielsen On Search Usability

Jakob Nielsen interview on the future of search ...

"I’m currently working on a column (series?) for Just Behave where we’ll explore what the search results page might look like in the year 2010. As part of that I sent out invitations to a number of my contacts in the usability world, including Marissa Mayer (Google), Michael Ferguson (Ask), Larry Cornett (Yahoo!), Justin Osmer (Microsoft) and Mr. Usability himself, Jakob Nielsen.

Jakob was actually the first to respond and as often happens when two people who are interested in user experience start chatting, we went a little bit off topic. Because I haven’t been able to get all the interviews done that I wanted to regarding the search results page in 2010, I’m going to push that back a little bit, but I thought it would be quite interesting to look at some of the topics that Jakob and I discussed in the interview. We touched on everything from universal search results to personalization and scanning of search results in other cultures, like China. As always Jakob has a strongly held view on most of these topics and always provides a refreshing perspective on user behavior.

Search circa 2010

First of all, regarding what search may look like in 2010 Jakob doesn’t hold out much hope for any significant changes in the next three years.

Jakob: I don’t think there will be that big a change because 3 years is not that long a time. I think if you look back three years at 2004, there was not really that much difference from what there is today. I think if you look back ten years there still isn’t that much difference. I actually just took a look at some old screen shots in preparation before this call at some various search engines like Infoseek and Excite and those guys that were around at that time, and Google’s Beta release, and the truth is that they were pretty similar to what we have today as well. The main difference, the main innovation seems to have been to abandon banner ads, which we all know now really do not work, and replace them with the text ads, and of course that effected the appearance of the page. And of course now the text ads are driven by the key words, but in terms of the appearance of the page, they have been very static, very similar for 10 years. I think that’s quite likely to continue.

We don’t necessarily agree on this point. For myself, I see more change in the actual look of the results page in the last six months that I have in the last several years. Personally I feel we’re at a turning point in search and we’re likely to see an increased pace of innovation in the actual interface within the next three years. However Jakob did see change in three reasonably significant areas. First of all he saw a change in the actual relevancy algorithm itself."    (Continued via Search Engine Land)    [Usability Resources]

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