Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Search for Search

I use Google for a lot of my default web services. I am considering changing that though. Obviously, the biggest service is basic web searching. That's Google's bread and butter, but I've been a tiny bit dissatisfied with it lately. Let's go through why that is.

I love Pacific Rim and I've heard the soundtrack is really popular. I'm interested in it, so I'm going to google it.

That's pretty cool. Google contextually knows that most people looking for a soundtracks are looking to buy them or listen to them first, so it's giving me links to Amazon and YouTube videos. But I also want to make sure the soundtrack has a kick-ass picture on the front of the CD case, so I'll do an image search.

Cool. Gypsy Danger's head is sufficiently bad ass for me to buy the CD. But whoops I'm clumsy and instead of going back to Amazon, I clicked "Maps."

Now I can see that Google suggests I take my new soundtrack out for a nice movie (Pacific Rim) and then share a room with it at The Riverwalk Plaza Hotel and Suites. It's apparently a very popular CD.

But I do notice while I'm tooling around that Google has a "Play" search, located conveniently between the YouTube search and the Map search. I can probably buy the album directly from there.

Oh, well maybe not. It looks like Google Play doesn't have that available. I mean, the term I was searching for was in the search bar and every other Google service auto-searches when I bring them up so they must not have it. That's cool; it's a music service I never heard of until just now, so I don't imagine they have a lot of things.

...but... couldn't be possible; it''s crazy...what if I click the search button thingy anyway?


Now I'm not 100% sure I want this album. I'm going to back out to the map while I think about how I want to investigate this further. Drive, Gmail, and Calendar aren't searches, so I'm going to see what the pull-down can give me.

Translate, Mobile, Books, Offers, and Wallet all look useless to me. Shopping looks good, but right under that is Blogger. I'm going to see if I can find a music blog that talks about it. Blogger is the specific name of Google's blogging service, so I should be able to at least search that, right?

Well, that's my Blogger dashboard. I can only search my own blog from here. There was a 50/50 chance of this happening. I wish it was clearer which of these identical buttons were services and which ones were searches.

Alright, so I backtrack a bit far and end up back at the image search. Fuck it; I'm buying this thing.

Nice. Works just as I would expect. But then I remember I have another search option for learning something about this album: the "News" search, which I know is a real search that I use all the time to make sure Tumblr folks aren't messing with me. It's a long shot that The Pacific Rim Soundtrack's willingness to put out on the first date has made it into The New York Times, but it's worth a look.

That is what they call "Poker Face." If I'm searching for a thing in a Google search and then decide to search for news on that thing, Google can't be arsed to assume I want to search for that thing in the news.

I'm not decrying the minor task of retyping a thing and then clicking an extra button. My main complaints here are the lack of consistency and opaque functions of these services. I can learn quickly from experience which buttons do what, but learning from experience isn't the point of a user interface; it's giving the user the comfort and confidence of knowing what's going to happen when they click a thing. Google search does not work like Google Play does not work like YouTube search does not work like Google news.

Almost as bad is that these search functions are interlaced with services. You don't know which button is going to bring you to the ability to find something you want and which one is going to direct you to your own corner of the internet. While most internet savvy people can figure out what's what and/or are already familiar with the layout, I doubt the same could be said of new users. That the world's most popular search engine, the biggest name on the internet right now, that can't get this kind of fundamental stuff right.

It's disheartening. Not disheartening. It feels worse than that.

Yeah. It feels like that.


SkilTao said...

1- Forgot about Pacific Rim soundtrack. I need to look into that.

2- Yeah, Google is... yeah. I'm not unhappy enough to switch to Microsoft yet though, so there's probably a market for third-party GUIs.

Jason said...

And a special appearance by my blog!

VanVelding said...

SkilTao-I've considered taking up a 30-day Bing challenge or something, if I can keep my hands from strangling myself. The interface is seriously everything I want. I would do a blog about it, but it would sound an awful lot like a plug.

Jason-Yeah, the numerical names come with a bonus. Is the new buzz about the second season of Sherlock your kind of thing?

Jason said...

I've only watched the first episode, but I've been meaning to catch up on the series. The name of my blog came about for pretty much no other reason than because I couldn't think of anything better at the time. I've had several "personal" blogs like it in the past and none of them lasted long, so I didn't want to rack my brain to come up with a more profound name than that.

Been thinking of changing it, though.

VanVelding said...

Ah. It works though. Besides, the numerical component puts it at the head of the blogroll.