UX experiment and case study on how to rethink search results design
Search the web
“Search” is the most common activity that is performed on the Internet every day. Google alone receives 40,000 searches every second (an average of 3.5 billion searches per day). it lot requests. It also means that there is a lot of user interaction with the system between the text input and the list of results. So why haven’t there really been any improvements to the search UI / UX over the years? Doubt the current “search engine design” has reached perfectionas there are many obvious disadvantages.
Let’s try to improve this extremely important interface and see if we can improve the search engine experience.
Default search results (DuckDuckGo)
For our basic example, we’ll be using the DuckDuckGo search engine. If you are not already using DDG as your default search engine, I recommend that you do so. Google has consistently proven that they cannot be trusted with user data, and the well-being and privacy of their customers are not high on their list of priorities. If you are interested, I am talking about this incident in the past.
These are the default search results we get for the query “Canada”:
In general, the design is clear and focused on exactly what the user cares about: content. To the right of the top results is a quick, detailed panel that gives the user a quick overview of the query they are looking for. I have no complaints about the visual component. Overall UX is another story.
Respect user restrictions
Not everyone has unlimited or fast internet. In fact, a stable internet is more of a first-world luxury that is often taken for granted. Many people (especially those on limited mobile data plans or low-cost, low-power devices) cannot afford to iterate over data by performing simple operations such as searching the Internet. For some, these low-power devices are the only way to connect to the network. By forcing elements such as tracking scripts or ads onto users’ devices, you steal some of the little data they have. You do this with zero positive impact on the users themselves.
Page size in search results
Why not give the user the ability to instantly know how much data each list will use, before thathow will they visit this site? By adding a simple filter toggle to the top of the search results (I would recommend that it be active default), you give the user a quick and easy way to view the total page size of each list. Take a look at the concept of this idea below:
Now, in the upper right section of the list, the user can see how “heavy” each element of the web page is. By seeing the page weight, users better understand which sites will load faster and easier. And all this thanks to a very simple addition.
As a consequence (but generally a big advantage) of this page weight element, companies will be forced to revisit their current websites and applications to avoid this tagging.
- Page size indicator
This element will show the final size of the entire web page that the list is linked to. Its default style will be a minimalistic, gray text element. Web pages with a total size of 1MB or more will be styled to alert the user to a large amount of data (light red background for immediate attention).
Being able to know the weight of a given list is great, but what about privacy? Adding an option to tell the user which listings will track or send your data to third-party services, or display nasty ads, should be more important than data consumption. This can also be done with a simple interface:
- Advertising indicator
This element tag is added to listings that contain specific ad scripts (Google AdSense, Carbon Ads, Buysellads, etc.). Advertisements don’t necessarily mean bad experience if their design is informative enough.
- Third party script indicator
The tracking tag is designed to display a warning to the user. These scripts tend to ignore the user’s privacy and are therefore more important to their security. This includes Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, Chartbeat, etc. And this is not a complete list. This element can also be a good way to sell script blocking extensions like Ghostery or uBlock to the user.
Wouldn’t companies depend on inline ads and tracking scripts for a similar design concept? Probably.
Companies that rely on intrusive ads as a vehicle for profit and monitor their users wherever they need to go adapt or die…
Disrupting the user experience to monetize your business is bad for your business in the long run. Personally, I think this is unethical. Your users do not agree with these third-party tracking scripts and do not allow you to forcibly download megabytes of data.
Stop feeding your customers junk and you don’t have to worry about more detailed search results. You will play for good guys ?. Find a way to make money without cheating on your users. It’s just a lazy “no other way” excuse before you try to do something else.
Search results should be optimized for users. Includes page size, advertising alerts, and tracking script indicators. You enable users to make more informed decisions about which sites to visit.
To stay competitive, companies will be forced to abandon questionable practices and downsize their websites and applications.
Nowadays, many websites profit from the goals and experiences of their users – and that should change… Small UX improvements in search engine results like the ones outlined in this article can help. force websites become more transparent.