How Google Senses Your Frustration

A new study from the Google User Experience team tracks dissatisfaction and attitudes in the struggle to search.

The already-intuitive nature of Google’s search box is easily understood and operational by most users’ standards.  The search engine function corrects spells errors, offers pointed suggestions and–with the recent introduction of Google Instant–presents a predictive offerings of finding precisely what each user is looking for.

Still, frustration can and does exists in the search process–and Google now knows it.

According to a new study from the Google User Experience team, there are five signals that indicate users regularly struggle in their search tasks. Via the Google Research blog:

“Those signals were: use of question queries, use of advanced operators, spending more time on the search results page, formulating the longest query in the middle of the session, and spending a larger proportion of the time on the search results page.”

The Google team arrived at these findings through a series of experiments in their usability labs:

“We gave users search tasks, some of which we knew to be difficult. The first couple of searches always looked pretty much the same independent of task difficulty: users formulated a query, quickly scanned the results and either clicked on a result or refined the query. However, after a couple of unsuccessful searches, we started noticing interesting changes in behavior. In addition to many of them sighing or starting to bite their nails, users sometimes started to type their searches as natural language questions, they sometimes spent a very long time simply staring at the results page, and they sometimes completely changed their approach to the task.”

For the future of Google’s search, these findings are key. Studying the behaviors observed through these experiments, Google hopes that they can soon make it possible for for computers to detect (and help aid) frustration in real-time.

The full text of the study can be found here.

Google Research: Frowns, Sighs and Advanced Queries: How does search behavior change when search becomes more difficult?

photo via sybrenstuvel

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