Saturday, February 03, 2007

Yahoo is better than sex?

Raymond's (The Old New Thing) post on why Yahoo is the most searched-for term on Google and Yahoo’s latest post Google user’s confirm, Yahoo better than sex made me think. This is actually a very interesting piece of information in terms of user experience design.

Raymond explains how most people put in the word Yahoo into the search field of the Google Tool Bar instead of the browser’s address bar. He says that the explanation given by the users is that they always get the Page not found error whenever they type in a wrong url into the address bar. Instead it is easy for them to type in things to the search field and let google figure out what is right and wrong. They have got used to this practice so badly that they even type the word Yahoo in the Google search bar and let Google come up with the search result for it or if they are feeling lucky, Google will take them to Yahoo directly. It’s true that people around the world use Yahoo services more than Google’s. So there are many people searching for Yahoo on Google. There are two sides of this fact. Google might be embarrassed by this result, and Yahoo happy. But if we think in another angle, there is scope for Google to be happy as well as Google is not the most searched term in Yahoo. This is because everyone considers Google as the first word for Search. Google can be happy that even if people are searching for Yahoo they are doing it on Google.

The user experience angle

The issue here is that the browser is giving error page when the url is wrong. If the browse knows that it’s an error why doesn’t it try to correct the error by taking the user to the right site or may be showing him a search result. Actually this is happening in the browsers now also but there are exceptions. If you type a word, say Yahoo into the address bar of any browser it does take you to search results but if we type the whole url, it wont. Some more thought into this behavior can really solve a big problem which is faced by many people and which is what making Yahoo as the most searched word in Google. I really like Google for this matter. Whenever I search for some word which is wrongly spelt, it helps me to correct my spelling and search for the right word in my mind. I even use Google Search to get the right spellings most of the time. If I’m not sure of how a word is spelt, I type the wrong spelling into the search and wait for Google to give me the right spelling.

Let’s bring this idea into other areas of product/service design. What if we let the user type his any phone number into our registration fields, and let the system figure out whether it’s a mobile number or a land line? What if we let the system figure out what’s the code and what’s the phone number? Let us type a date and time in any known format and let the system recognise that. What if we start typing a mail and the application help us to type the right spellings; not let us make the mistake and then marking it and asking us to correct it. The new touch screen keypad of iPhone is supposed to be done in that way, which reduces the amount of errors you type in the first place. I would love to use something like that.
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