The Art of User research

Google is famous for their simple and intuitive User Interface but underlying this interface is a huge amount of research done on their user...

Google is famous for their simple and intuitive User Interface but underlying this interface is a huge amount of research done on their users. Google in a series of posts highlights how they have spend huge time and effort behind the scenes on improving user experience and how every decisions on the smallest changes in the User interface has been made on solid data a fact that most of Indian internet companies have no idea about. According to Google
The role of "user experience" research is to try and get the inside story on what people do when they search. We're constantly asking: What's the user's experience of search? What works and doesn't work for them? What are they looking for? What DO they want?
To do user research Google uses a combination of techniques lab experiments, eye tracking and even field studies.
For each proposed search improvement, we generate an experiment plan that will allow us to measure the key aspects of the change. Often, we use a combination of human and live traffic evaluation. For instance, consider a proposed improvement to Google's "related searches" feature to increase its coverage across several locales. Our experiment plan might include live traffic evaluation in which we show the updated related search suggestions to users and measure click-through rates in each locale and break these down by position of each related search suggestion. We might also include human evaluation, in which for a representative sample of queries in each locale, we ask evaluators to rate the appropriateness, usefulness, and relevance of each individual related search suggestion.

But the most interesting insights come from the field studies group of Google which goes out and studies users actually doing searches and this actually provides a great insight into Human behavior

people are masters of saying one thing and doing another, particularly when it comes to nearly automatic behavior. We find that searchers often turn so quickly to Google that they don’t really think too much about what they’re actually searching for.

It’s surprising, but often we’ll see people trying to find out something about a topic, but then never actually mention the topic itself. That is, there’s often a big discrepancy between what they’ll tell me (the human observer) they’re trying to do, and the search terms they enter into Google. One person I shadowed for the day spent ten minutes trying to find the schedule of the ferry that runs between San Francisco and Larkspur, but somehow only thought of adding the word “ferry” much later in their search. . . .

Memories of your own behavior are also notoriously unreliable. People’s search behavior in the lab is often different than when they’re at home or at work. This is a natural (and expected) side effect of lab studies: people will work especially hard to please a researcher.

If we ask them to search for a pair of brown shoes they’d like to buy for themselves, in the lab they’ll find the first pair that seems reasonable and then stop, satisfied. If it was real, they would go on and spend more time. We still do lab studies, but we know what to watch for, and what to ignore.

These kinds of studies and data has allowed Google to stay ahead of the pack infact they rolled out 450 improvements on google search last year based on the data Did you even notice?
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