Google’s design philosophy is to combine power with simplicity

Dec 10 2012, 01:53 IST
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SummaryGoogle is the top web property in all major global markets. So also is the search experience in Google.

the most intuitive and smooth experience while searching.

We make these improvements after extensive field testing with real users to make sure the changes improve the ease and usefulness of Google. In lab tests, the team carefully measures user feedback, whether it’s verbal feedback, eye tracking equipment, or even the time it takes users to find their desired result. Some of our improvements have been as visible as Google Instant, which shows search results as you type; or as subtle as a slightly bigger search box.

How do you do the testing activities? Can you cite some examples which triggered a revolutionary concept in Web search?

User feedback is very important to us. We get feedback directly from the users and Google’s dedicated user experience team puts the proposed changes through a rigorous process of testing with real life users. Here are some specific ways we carry out user experience research such as ethnographic/field studies where researchers and engineers observe people using our products in the real world, sitting side by side; or diary studies where users submit regular updates and feedback while using a product in real life; observational studies where it takes place in the labs and involve cameras, recording and eye tracking equipment, where users are given a scenario to play out while our experts watch to see how they’re reacting through a one-way mirror; and by live experiments and we turn on a new feature for a small percentage of live users and track usage on the back-end.

An example of where we implemented observed user behaviour into a product feature was Google Instant. This is the feature where we show you results instantly as you type. Our key insight from user experiments is that people type slowly, but read quickly. This means that you can scan a results page while you type. So we decided to integrate this insight into a feature in search.

What are the challenges you perceived at every level of change and the nature of experiences you gained through these challenges?

Let me explain one of our recent challenges. Many people today rely on multiple devices —laptops, smartphones, tablets—to keep in touch with their work, friends and families. However, given the disparity among devices’ different screen sizes, resolutions, hardware capabilities and so on, providing a consistent Google Search experience across devices proves remarkably harder than it looks. For instance, the way the Google Search results page looks

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