The usability side of search. India’s Google story.

Ask someone to find out information about any topic and the first thing that the person is going to do is to log onto Google and try a keyword search. He might even do it from his cell phone these days. Gone are the days where people trudged to the local library or pulled out reference books (this has become a second or even a last resort for many).

Search has become an integral part of how we use the internet. Gone are the days where you trawled directories for what you were searching for. Today search patterns have become today’s dipstick to judge what’s on top of their mind.  Yet we often overlook a major role that search plays in our everyday life. A lot of us Indians use search to simplify typing URLs. Think about it from a usability point of view. Every browser has had the same basic design since the early days of Netscape. The main browsing area always has the URL input field on top of it. In fact it is the same pattern that makes using a browser so simple, whatever browser it may be, you know how it works. Yet for some inexplicable reason, even if a user knows a site URL he heads for a search engine.  The fact that your favourite search engine is now within your browser is another added incentive to this.

Typing URLs seem to be the most annoying thing for the procrastinators in us. If your site has a long URL then you can be sure that the way someone accesses your site is going to be through a search engine. I believe that it is this search for convenience that makes an analysis of India’s top search terms related to the internet category for the last thirty days reveals that the top most terms are all e-mail providers. A big chunk of these searches are repeat users who access their email accounts by first keying in the service provider in Google. It is very likely that this chunk of target audience is an older more uncertain internet user – not the net savvy bunch of teens that we are breeding today. But this is merely a supposition on the author’s part.

A look at the ‘rising searches’ indicator reveals something interesting. Tucked away in the sixth place is Online SBI – the online banking portal from India’s premier bank – State Bank of India. The reason? It’s either the most widely used net-banking service or it’s because it has a URL which is not very intuitive for its users. Why isn’t it SBI.com for example?  The only other organisation website that features higher in the search ranking is the government’s website for income tax filing.  The fact remains apart from information search, we are using search engines from a usability aspect.

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One Response to The usability side of search. India’s Google story.

  1. Raamesh says:

    Income tax e-filing is a very transient activity, once a year to be precise. There is therefore no payoff to remember the URL. A large number of SBI’s online banking customers are in the older bracket, and hence your thing about usability tool applies. They tend to use it mostly to check their balance, and rarely for online transactions.

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