I was going through this Google’s recent paper published in the WWW-’09 :
“Computers and iPhones and Mobile Phones, oh my! A logs-based comparison of search users on different devices.”
– Thought I’d share my thoughts post reading.
I am basically highly fluctuating on the merits of a particular usability study. One moment, it appears a very practical and useful study, one moment it appears a stunt, some other moment it appears like interesting but useless. When I began this paper, I began with the first mode, went through the other modes and finally, ended up in the first mode towards the end 🙂
So, what is this paper about? : As the name indicates, its a study on the search logs from three different kinds of devices – computers, iphones and mobile phones. The intention of this paper as it appears to me, is to understand the searcher behavior with different devices and also suggest some ideas to improve the mobile searching experience. This is the first of it kind study, which compares these 3 platforms all at a single place – interesting! The details of studies provided in related work also made me wonder : what will you learn knowing the average query length? What will one do with that?
Hmm, they have conducted this study over a period of time with different users on different devices, who used google search, and drew some conclusions from their research:
1. Query length is kinda similar with a computer and an iphone but lesser on a general mobile phone
(Atleast to me, it appeared obvious, because of the difficulty in typing using a mobile phone keyboard. However, no issues. They worked hard and proved it.)
2. Distribution of query categories on a mobile phone was less diverse compared to the other two, which were more or less similar.
3. Third one, though again might sound obvious, interested me. Comparitively, local search queries were to the same extent on computers as well as iphones and were obviously lesser than conventional mobiles. The explanation for this trend of lesser local queries on iphone was stated as: “users search for local content within an application that can provide a richer experience, if it is available” It indicates Maps application of iphone in this context.
4. Iphone searchers had the most diversity in information per user while conventional mobile had the least.
(I thought computers will have most diversity and mobiles will have least)
5. Computer users had the highest queries per session, followed by iphone users and conventional mobile users (Intuitively, obvious)
6. Frequent computer-based searchers had a much higher rate of return than frequent iPhone or mobile phone searchers. – which says that mobile search is still a secondary mode of search (Well, speaking entirely from an Indian mobile user perspective, thats obvious. Surprised to see that its true in general too).
7. Adult content search is less on mobiles.
– As I read through these conclusions, I was getting irritated. If you understand the inherent difficulty in text entry for mobiles vs computers, most of these conclusions appear obvious. Since Iphone has a QWERTY kbd, perhaps, iphone might be better and will be in the middle. If not for the desire to convert the mights to “is” I was feeling like – do we really need a WWW paper, especially from Google to do this?
Once this is done, there came the suggestions part, to improve user experience, which finally made me feel I did not totally waste my time reading this.
1. For conventional mobiles, it was suggested to use low diversity in queries and provide a quick fetching of likely queries, thereby increasing the target rate. Personalizing this process to the user’s interests might give a better experience too.
2. Since the search patterns on high-end mobiles like iphone are similar, attempts can be made to integrate the search experiences on both these platforms (Eg: “content that was searched for on a computer should be
easily accessible through mobile search” etc). Also, info from computer based search studies can be applied to iphone and the likes, to provide better experience on them.
I don’t know. Somethings wrong with me. Either I have become too caustic and pessimistic about usability studies or I am just not trying to realize the merit. I am feeling that these are the only two points worth noticing in that 10 page paper.
The paper can be read here.