Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search?

Jared Spool

October 9th, 2007

UIE Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search?
Recorded: September 26, 2007 from UIE’s studios
Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer
Duration: 21 min | File size: 12 MB
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Each week in our Usability Tools Podcast series, I will be sitting down with UIE’s Managing Director, Christine Perfetti to discuss tips and tools for improving your site’s user experience. The goal of our weekly podcast is to share some of the most important findings from UIE’s research on web design and usability.

In the design world, there’s always been an assumption that some users demonstrate “search-dominant” tendencies by going right to the search engine when they first visit a web site looking for content. But back in 2000, UIE made a groundbreaking claim that blew away the web design world. From our research, we concluded that users aren’t Search dominant. A few years back, I wrote the article, Are There Users Who Always Search?, and have received tons of questions about the findings ever since.

In this podcast, Christine Perfetti and I discuss the study, including:

» Why no user always went to the search engine on a site
» How the design of a site’s page determines what location strategy users employ
» How the design community reacted to UIE’s research on Search Dominance
» Why your site’s navigation may be poorly designed if your users are gravitating to Search

As always, we’re very interested in hearing from you. Do you have questions or comments about this episode? Do you have suggestions for future episodes? We want to know. Please leave a comment below or email us directly at

UIE’s Latest Research: If you’re interested in the topics Christine and I discuss in the podcasts, I highly suggest you sign up for our free newsletter, UIEtips, to read our latest usability and design research as soon as we publish it. (We first published the results of our research on Search Dominance in our email newsletter.)

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6 Responses to “Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search?”

  1. { » Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search? Says:

    […] Originally by Jared Spool from UIE Brain Sparks on October 9, 2007, 11:05am Bookmark to: […]

  2. Max Design - standards based web design, development and training » Some links for light reading (16/10/07) Says:

    […] Usability Tools Podcast: Are There Users Who Always Search? […]

  3. Richard Morton Says:

    Personally I tend towards using navigation first, followed by search, but it does very much depend on what I am doing. Steve Krug uses the analogy of trying to find a particular item in a large store, which I think is a good one. When I recently went into Homebase for a window lock, I used a number of strategies to find it:

    1) My prior knowledge of the store – somewhat sketchy as I don’t do much DIY and don’t assign much confidence to this as the store do move things around
    2) Scanning the overhead signs, not all visible on immediately entering the store, so a process of eliminating obviously spurious ones like “lighting” and “garden”, and trying to narrow it down to things that might fit. I had already discounted looking for a “window locks” section as being highly unlikely to exist. I was thinking best scenario “windows” or more realistically “fixtures and fittings”. All the time I am moving around the store, refining my search (in a very non-systematic way), getting distracted by things not relevant to my search (which is of course what Homebase would love).
    3) If it takes me too long, then I am likely to use the “search” option, which for a store is generally ask an assistant. Even that process is complex because I have to find an assistant, I don’t want to go back to the main desk in a large store, so I am scanning for an assistant who is a) not obviously busy with another customer (because I will have to wait) and b) looks like they might have the nouse to be able to point me in the right direction. In other words I am more likely to ask a mature member of staff than a teenager.

    Where this process differs on the web is that if I find my search criteria don’t yield the results I want, then I will refine it maybe a couple of times, but then I will head back to the navigation and probably drill deeper or be more methodical about it.

    But again, going back to my original point, on some sites I would almost always head straight for search e.g. Ebay, Amazon, mainly because I know (particularly in the case of Amazon), that I don’t need to put much thought or effort into the search process to get exactly the results that I want (on the first page).

  4. Daniel Szuc Says:

    We have seen people try the following when looking for what they want:

    1. Scan the content on the Home Page
    2. Scan the primary navigation
    3. Try the site search
    4. If all 3 above strategies fail — use Google … often finding what they need faster than on the site.

    If the content is key (something they would expect to see on the site) and users have trouble finding it, frustration levels go up … fast! In this case we often here “are you sure its on the site?”


  5. Myth #16: 검색 기능이 웹사이트의 내비게이션 문제들을 해결할 것이다? | Clearboth Says:

    […] 검색 선호도를 테스트하기 위한 연구에서, J.S. 의 UIE 팀은 검색에 의존적인 사람을 전혀 찾지 못했다. 그들이 찾아낸 것은 20%의 참여자가 링크에 의존적이었으며, 오직 내비게이션 링크만을 사용했다는 것이다. 그들은 또한 검색은 주로 서적, CD, DVD, 비디오 게임 같은 것에 사용되며, 또한 사용자가 꼼짝할 수 없이 갇힌 경우에 사용된다는 것을 발견했다 – 항상 검색을 하는 사용자가 있기는 한가?, UIE podcast […]

  6. [Myth] Search will solve a website’s navigation problems | Says:

    […] In a study to test search-preference, Jared Spool’s team at UIE found no search-dominant people. What they did find though is that 20% of the participants were link-dominant, using exclusively navigation links. They also found that search is usually used for books, CDs, DVDs and video games, and in cases the user got stuck. – Are There Users Who Always Search? and also in the UIE podcast […]

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