Usability/design problem - Users type "google" in intranet search form

10 Jul 2007 - 1:06pm
7 years ago
8 replies
1128 reads
bminihan
2007

This comes up regularly, and we don't have a very easy way to find out
how to solve it, or if it needs solving:

The #1 search term on our corporate intranet portal is "google", even
though any user in the company can type "www.google.com" in the
address bar just a few inches above. We're somewhat of an outlier in
that our search form is in the upper left corner, rather than the
right, but it's separated from the address bar by about 1.5 inches of
graphics and a "welcome message".

This seems to be a problem, because we obviously want people to get to
google the first time they try, rather than using our search form to
do it. We have helped these folks by manually
inserting "www.google.com" as the first search result when you enter
it into our form. The result is that even if you type google in our
search form and hit Enter, you can click the first link to get where
you want to go.

Every time this comes up, none of us has any data to prove one way or
another why users do this, because we don't have the resources to
pursue it. We don't get any bug reports about it, and I've never
heard a complaint. On the other hand, it seems like odd behavior.

On a slightly ironic note, if you type google in our search form, hit
enter, then click the first link, you would save 7 clicks/keystrokes
over typing www.google.com in the address bar and hitting enter.
Maybe we've invented a faster way to get there...

Curious to see what you think...

Bryan Minihan

PS, if you're wondering, our intranet search does not combine Internet
data, although I believe it should. That hopefully explains why users
need to go outside the company to look for certain data.

Comments

10 Jul 2007 - 1:14pm
SusieComet
2006

This happens on our company intranet and we know the reason: The intranet
home page is the browser home page. The cursor sets focus in the first
field on the page. If you click in the address bar before the page fully
loads, the cursor still loads in the first field on the page, and actor
types google or google.com and hits enter before realizing they're not in
the address bar. Are you sure your users are really searching for Google
and not typing it there accidentally? Just a thought.

Susan Patrick
User Interface Designer
The Midland Company
(513) 947-6072

"Design is a process - an intimate collaboration between engineers,
designers, and clients." - Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer

bjminihan at nc.rr.c
om
Sent by: To
discuss-bounces at l discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.
ists.interactiond com
esigners.com cc

Subject
07/10/2007 02:06 [IxDA Discuss] Usability/design
PM problem - Users type "google" in
intranet search form

This comes up regularly, and we don't have a very easy way to find out
how to solve it, or if it needs solving:

The #1 search term on our corporate intranet portal is "google", even
though any user in the company can type "www.google.com" in the
address bar just a few inches above. We're somewhat of an outlier in
that our search form is in the upper left corner, rather than the
right, but it's separated from the address bar by about 1.5 inches of
graphics and a "welcome message".

This seems to be a problem, because we obviously want people to get to
google the first time they try, rather than using our search form to
do it. We have helped these folks by manually
inserting "www.google.com" as the first search result when you enter
it into our form. The result is that even if you type google in our
search form and hit Enter, you can click the first link to get where
you want to go.

Every time this comes up, none of us has any data to prove one way or
another why users do this, because we don't have the resources to
pursue it. We don't get any bug reports about it, and I've never
heard a complaint. On the other hand, it seems like odd behavior.

On a slightly ironic note, if you type google in our search form, hit
enter, then click the first link, you would save 7 clicks/keystrokes
over typing www.google.com in the address bar and hitting enter.
Maybe we've invented a faster way to get there...

Curious to see what you think...

Bryan Minihan

PS, if you're wondering, our intranet search does not combine Internet
data, although I believe it should. That hopefully explains why users
need to go outside the company to look for certain data.
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10 Jul 2007 - 1:24pm
Cwodtke
2004

This happens everywhere, from yahoo to google to intranets. I've worked
in search extensively, and seen it over and over again. Your response to
it depends on who you are; if you are yahoo you want to show a link to
google, but you also might encourage people to search on yahoo as well.
if you are the new york times, you need to show news results about
google, but you can also offer a link to google. And if you are google,
what can you do but show your homepage and sigh.

In multiple user tests, in multiple contexts, I've seen users show to
appreciable difference between a browser bar, a browser search box and a
website's search box... and more and more they don't have to care. Don't
fight it; send them to Google and move on to the next mystery.

bjminihan at nc.rr.com wrote:
> This comes up regularly, and we don't have a very easy way to find out
> how to solve it, or if it needs solving:
>
> The #1 search term on our corporate intranet portal is "google", even
> though any user in the company can type "www.google.com" in the
> address bar just a few inches above. We're somewhat of an outlier in
> that our search form is in the upper left corner, rather than the
> right, but it's separated from the address bar by about 1.5 inches of
> graphics and a "welcome message".
>
> This seems to be a problem, because we obviously want people to get to
> google the first time they try, rather than using our search form to
> do it. We have helped these folks by manually
> inserting "www.google.com" as the first search result when you enter
> it into our form. The result is that even if you type google in our
> search form and hit Enter, you can click the first link to get where
> you want to go.
>
> Every time this comes up, none of us has any data to prove one way or
> another why users do this, because we don't have the resources to
> pursue it. We don't get any bug reports about it, and I've never
> heard a complaint. On the other hand, it seems like odd behavior.
>
> On a slightly ironic note, if you type google in our search form, hit
> enter, then click the first link, you would save 7 clicks/keystrokes
> over typing www.google.com in the address bar and hitting enter.
> Maybe we've invented a faster way to get there...
>
> Curious to see what you think...
>
> Bryan Minihan
>
> PS, if you're wondering, our intranet search does not combine Internet
> data, although I believe it should. That hopefully explains why users
> need to go outside the company to look for certain data.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator
415-577-2550

Business :: http://www.cucinamedia.com
Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Product :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

10 Jul 2007 - 1:31pm
bminihan
2007

That's one of our theories, as well. We don't really think people are
searching for google, but really just trying to get there. Our portal
is the user's home page, but the search field isn't set to focus by
default. My theory goes: the page opens, the user clicks the first
box they see or that they use most often, they type google and hit
enter, then click the first link that appears. Do this enough times
and your standard method for getting to Google is pretty fast, esp
since we made it easier by rigging the search result.

Another reason we haven't pursued this problem is that we're not
exactly sure it's really a problem. It may be that our search form is
used for most searches, and people rarely need the address bar. If
you're used to searching the intranet 80% of the time, you're more
likely to try "google" there once, and when it works, keep using it.

Still though, it *seems* wrong =]

Thanks for the feedback, I'll share with my team, to add to the
discussion.

Bryan

----- Original Message -----
From: SPatrick at amig.com
Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 2:15 pm
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Usability/design problem - Users
type "google" in intranet search form
To: bjminihan at nc.rr.com, discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com

> This happens on our company intranet and we know the reason: The
> intranethome page is the browser home page. The cursor sets focus
> in the first
> field on the page. If you click in the address bar before the page
> fullyloads, the cursor still loads in the first field on the page,
> and actor
> types google or google.com and hits enter before realizing they're
> not in
> the address bar. Are you sure your users are really searching for
> Googleand not typing it there accidentally? Just a thought.
>
> Susan Patrick
> User Interface Designer
> The Midland Company
> (513) 947-6072
>
> "Design is a process - an intimate collaboration between engineers,
> designers, and clients." - Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer
>
>
>
>
> bjminihan at nc.rr.c
>
> om
>
> Sent by:
> To
> discuss-bounces at l
> discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.
> ists.interactiond com
>
> esigners.com
> cc
>
>
>
> Subject
> 07/10/2007 02:06 [IxDA Discuss]
> Usability/design
> PM problem - Users type
> "google" in
> intranet search form
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> This comes up regularly, and we don't have a very easy way to find
out
> how to solve it, or if it needs solving:
>
> The #1 search term on our corporate intranet portal is "google", even
> though any user in the company can type "www.google.com" in the
> address bar just a few inches above. We're somewhat of an outlier in
> that our search form is in the upper left corner, rather than the
> right, but it's separated from the address bar by about 1.5 inches of
> graphics and a "welcome message".
>
> This seems to be a problem, because we obviously want people to
> get to
> google the first time they try, rather than using our search form to
> do it. We have helped these folks by manually
> inserting "www.google.com" as the first search result when you enter
> it into our form. The result is that even if you type google in our
> search form and hit Enter, you can click the first link to get where
> you want to go.
>
> Every time this comes up, none of us has any data to prove one way or
> another why users do this, because we don't have the resources to
> pursue it. We don't get any bug reports about it, and I've never
> heard a complaint. On the other hand, it seems like odd behavior.
>
> On a slightly ironic note, if you type google in our search form, hit
> enter, then click the first link, you would save 7 clicks/keystrokes
> over typing www.google.com in the address bar and hitting enter.
> Maybe we've invented a faster way to get there...
>
> Curious to see what you think...
>
> Bryan Minihan
>
> PS, if you're wondering, our intranet search does not combine
Internet
> data, although I believe it should. That hopefully explains why
users
> need to go outside the company to look for certain data.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>
>
>
> -----------------------------------------
> CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT:
> This e-mail transmission contains information that is intended to
> be confidential. It is intended only for the addressee named
> above. If you receive this e-mail in error, please do not read,
> copy, or disseminate it. If you are not the intended recipient,
> any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of
> this information is prohibited. Please reply to the message
> immediately by informing the sender that the message was
> misdirected. After replying, please erase it from your computer
> system. Your assistance in correcting this error is appreciated.
>

10 Jul 2007 - 2:01pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> The #1 search term on our corporate intranet portal is "google", even
> though any user in the company can type "www.google.com" in the
> address bar just a few inches above.

This absolutely kills me. I love how users always do things
differently than you could ever expect.

That said, this isn't really surprising. From a Nielsen article
(http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030224.html):

"Our own usability testing of intranets, for example, revealed serious
problems when intranets had multiple searches: users often used the
wrong search without knowing it. To the users' mind, search is search,
and if they type something into a query field and hit return, they
expect to find what they're looking for. They often don't realize that
the same action can have different outcomes depending on subtle
details, such as the difference between two search mechanisms."

I've seen it myself a thousand times, too.

"Search is search." They want the search to get them to Google,
because they trust Google. and they want to find things outside of the
intranet. Makes perfect sense to me.

-r-

10 Jul 2007 - 2:21pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> In multiple user tests, in multiple contexts, I've seen users show [no]
> appreciable difference between a browser bar, a browser search box and a
> website's search box... and more and more they don't have to care. Don't
> fight it; send them to Google and move on to the next mystery.

Amen, sister Christina. :)

-r-

10 Jul 2007 - 3:20pm
bminihan
2007

Thanks Robert, that's exactly why I don't think this is a huge problem
for our users. They get there whether they use our search form or the
address bar (faster, in fact, in some cases). We could have tried
to "force" users to use the address bar with annoying messages or
popups telling them not to type "google" in the search from. Instead,
we changed the results to meet the need, and hence, have no evidence
at all that it's a problem for people. We spent several months last
year analyzing users for a search redesign. None of our sessions
revealed users typing "google" in the search form, either because they
had google bookmarked, or didn't think Google would have the info.

So, in your mind, is this behavior in our company supporting evidence
for the Nielsen article you cite?

Bryan

>
> That said, this isn't really surprising. From a Nielsen article
> (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030224.html):
>

10 Jul 2007 - 3:24pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Recently, we've been seeing something similar in testing. It's not
unusual that rather than type the URL into the URL bar at the top
(for those who have MSN, Comcast, AOL, or another home page other
than Google, or Yahoo!), participants just type the name into the
search box for Comcast.net, MSN, or AOL home page, get resulting
search page, and click the first link that shows up.

When probing a bit, participants have indicated that it's "easier
than typing the URL into the white space at the top." Not my idea of
easier, but I'm not that customer either... them's just the facts as
we see 'em.

On Jul 10, 2007, at 2:31 PM, bjminihan at nc.rr.com wrote:

> That's one of our theories, as well. We don't really think people
> are searching for google, but really just trying to get there. Our
> portal is the user's home page, but the search field isn't set to
> focus by default. My theory goes: the page opens, the user clicks
> the first box they see or that they use most often, they type
> google and hit enter, then click the first link that appears. Do
> this enough times and your standard method for getting to Google is
> pretty fast, esp since we made it easier by rigging the search result.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design & Usability Specialist
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

10 Jul 2007 - 4:11pm
Carl Collins
2007

Similar to what Todd Warfel wrote, I\'ve seen similar behavior in testing situations.

Users will type a partially formed URL into the Google search box rather than typing it into the Address bar. The reasoning often given, as Todd says, \"its easier\"

Upon questioning many users have been able to explain that on the browser they use primarily (at home, at work) that things typed into the address bar often don\'t work. Interestingly on our test machines typing in wikipedia.com into the address bar is faster than running the same search - but our users don\'t seem to be expecting this behavior. They are expecting that search (and especially google) is going to be more reliable than whatever they might type into the address bar.

I\'d be curious to learn if the relative position of the two elements (search bar in upper right corner) has anything to do with this behavior as well.

Carl Collins
Enlighten: be experienced

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