Archives for August 2008

Ben Gomes on Google’s user interface

This summer several people in Google’s quality group have pulled back the curtain on how people think about search quality at Google. We’ve had Udi Manber give an overview of search quality and the groups that work on it. Then my office-mate Amit Singhal discussed some of our principles of core ranking. Amit followed that with a post about how we understand pages, queries, and users that revealed that Google does much more sophisticated semantic processing than just keyword matching.

Today, Ben Gomes steps out from behind the curtain to discuss Google’s user interface for our search results. Ben is another office-mate, he’s been at Google longer than I have, and I think he’s got quite a knack for blogging:

A common reaction from friends when I say that I now work on Google’s search user interface is “What do you do? It never changes.” Then they look at me suspiciously and tell me not to mess with a good thing.

Ben goes on to reveal a bit of the philosophy behind Google’s search interface, which might seem counter-intuitive at first glance. For example, a big goal of our search results is to get you off of them and to your destination quickly. That’s one reason why we usually put query refinements (which are a somewhat distracting feature) toward the bottom of the search page. If you get to the bottom of the search results and still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then you’re more likely to actually want those refinements to modify your search.

Every feature on Google’s search page has to defend its pixels in terms of usability, and Google tests a ton of changes that most people never notice. For example, Ben points out that we know “Arod” and “Alex Rodriguez” can be the same thing. Instead of hitting people over the head with that, we just subtly highlight the words “Alex Rodriguez” if you search for [arod]:


Get the skinny over on Ben’s post to read more about how Google thinks about our search interface. Ben, thanks for writing this–I’m glad that several search quality folks are working to be more open about how Google works and how Google thinks about search quality.