Saturday, November 13, 2004

The value of simplicity

In an InternetNews article, an interesting discussion of simplicity in search interfaces:
    Google took the lead in the early days of search because it provided better results in a clean layout. MSN Search includes a bevy of buttons, drop-down menus and sliders to help searchers refine results. But it's not clear to experts that many searchers even care about advanced query techniques, no matter how simplified.

    "Users are notoriously very lazy," said usability expert Jakob Nielsen, a principal of Nielsen/Norman Group. "They don't want to go to page two; they don't even want to scroll. The average behavior is to type two or three terms [into the query box], look at what's visible and click on those links."

    Nielsen said that Google rose to the top at a time when other search services had piled on content and features in the rush to become portals. "They were very cluttered. Google had the opposite approach -- very lean and cut back and very good at prioritizing. Those are the two reasons for its big success."

    Nielsen compared Google to A9, the search service from, which combines Google's search technology with proprietary features, such as personalization, Search Inside the Book and results from different sources appearing in multiple columns."A9 has a variety of extra features, so you would think it must be better than Google. But it's worse."
See also my earlier post "Google wants to keep it simple".

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