With all the recent hype surrounding Google SearchWiki and the ensuing row over whether the changes add or detract from Google’s core search offering, it makes you wander to what extent Google trial this services prior to launch.
In this post on the art of field study, you get an idea into what Google does in the realm of usability (they are not alone given that they have one of the most used interfaces on the planet – check out this early eye-tracking study).
They perform surveys:
It turns out that people are masters of saying one thing and doing another, particularly when it comes to nearly automatic behavior.
They undertake eye-tracking studies:
Notice how methodically the gaze moves from result title to title, occasionally inspecting the snippet text to gain more detail about the result.
And generally spend time with users getting to grips with what they do. The post is thoughtful in that it also considers some of the limitations of usability testing – particularly in the lab scenario.
One of the questions that springs to mind though is what exactly is the link between the usability team and the engineering guys? Just how much teeth do these usability testers have? I’m not advocating that they should have more control of the interface – after all, it’s refreshing that counting in web years, the Google interface has hardly changed in a millenium. The design just hasn’t swung with every whim of the crowd. We need some standards in this life.