April 5th, 2006
In today’s UIE Roadshow in Seattle, an attendee asked Christine Perfetti an interesting question:
“Do we have any evidence users would favor making Search more prominent on the home page, maybe even making the search box the only feature, because users would prefer just to type in their keywords and go?”
What’s even more interesting is three other clients have asked us this exact question in the past 3 weeks.
The rationale is this: Google’s home page has a simple search type-in box prominent on their home page, with virtually nothing else. Everybody loves using Google. Therefore, doesn’t everybody want the same simple design on every site they visit?
People are calling this approach Home Page Googlization.
On the surface, the rationale does seem to make sense. Google is an experience that people are very familiar with. It’s the starting point for many trips to the web. Why not transfer that experience to your own site?
Often, this is coming from sites really struggling to make their content easy to find. Intranet designers are fighting with their portals. Internet site designers are struggling to get everything they offer represented on a logical form on their home page.
Why keep the struggle going? Why not leverage the experience of Google?
The main reason is the experience of using Google is not the experience of using any other site. People go to Google to search the entire web. And Google has the game of numbers behind them. Because they’ve indexed billions of pages, they have probability on their side. Someone types in a keyword, no matter how odd or wacky it is, is likely to turn up some result somewhere. (For example, the mistyped word “Vidoes” produces 2,210,000 results. Every single one of them is probably close to what the user was seeking.)
But other sites aren’t indexing billions of pages. At best, it’s millions, but usually, it’s far less. This means many requests, even reasonable queries, will produce the dreaded No Results response. Unless the designers can eliminate these for 99% of the queries, Googlizing the home page is only going to frustrate.
All the evidence we have tells us, most of the time, users want to find strong trigger words to click on, not a box to type their trigger word into. When the trigger words are present on the page, users are far more likely to succeed. As designers, we need to focus on design solutions that make trigger words more prevalent, not less.
We’re anxious to see if someone has successfully Googlize their home page. We’ll be really impressed if someone manages to improve their user experience by minimizing the home page design down to a single search box. Until then, we’re going to keep to our opinion that it’s a move in the wrong direction.Tweet