Some interesting research from J.P. Morgan has been doing the rounds recently. Internet analyst Imran Khan (not to be confused with the legendary Pakistani cricket player of the same name) first looked at the most frequently used search engines and found:
He then asked people what it would take to for them switch search engines. The results were:
Interesting? Yes! Insightful? I’m not sure. You see, over the last couple of months I’ve been informally asking our clients why they go to the search site of their choice in the first place (the vast majority of which is Google). What I’ve found is that no one can actually explain why they go to the site they go to – they just go there. It’s more of a stimulus-response behaviour than a conscious decision.
In fact, I’ve specifically asked how many people have actually compared speed or “result quality” between different search engines and found that only a tiny fraction have bothered doing so. And remember, I’m talking to highly technical IT types. These are people genetically predisposed to make technology comparisons. So while I find Khan’s survey interesting I’d question how your average person would know they’ve gotten a better search result much less be able to discern an improvement to the near instantaneous time it currently takes to receive them.
I think it’s futile focusing on why someone might switch from Google (let’s face it – that’s the main game here). It’s far more important to understand why it has become the gravitational force is has. My theory – it boils down to “location singularity.”
Consider the design of the following sites www.msn.com and www.yahoo.com. Search is represented as just one of many features. But at www.google.com search is the location’s raison d’être. Google achieved this by dedicating the vast majority of that the page’s real estate to nothing. That sends a subtle yet powerful message that the whole point of typing www.google.com into the address bar of a browser is to find something on the internet. PageRank may have initially led people to Google rather than Altavista but it’s the white space that keeps bringing them back. That position has now firmly been cemented in place by one of the world’s most successful brands.
What Google grasped earlier then their competitors was that HTML allows a function point to be represented as a discrete destination. That is in marked contrast to to the PC GUI metaphor where function points are represented as features within a broader application.
Google’s competition keeps trying to address their shortcomings by creating cooler, more streamlined site design. But they’re missing the point. The power of the web is the address, not the page. WWW.Nivana is achieved through branded locations that do one thing, and only one thing, really well. And while I think that Google stumbled upon this realization they’ve been able to sustain this advantage by formalizing internal processes to protect that advantage (which is why I would seriously doubt that their competition can simply “unclutter” their existing sites).
Category: Feature-itis & The Design Imperative Tags: