Commentary
8/23/2007
12:00 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary

Advertising Makes Mobile Search Better?

Nearly four out of five participants in a recent study conducted by Usable Products indicated that advertising-supported search produced more relevant results.



Nearly four out of five participants in a recent study conducted by Usable Products indicated that advertising-supported search produced more relevant results.These findings seem to defy logic, and even surprised the researchers. Other studies we've seen recently reported that an overwhelming majority of people find mobile advertisements to be annoying. Apparently this is not the case in the context of mobile search. Banner ads were the winner in terms of enhancing the mobile search experience. Users were not so fond of text-based ads.

The study used four mobile search engines to provide the results. They were three text-based search engines (InfoSpace WAP, JumpTap JAVA, and Yahoo! Go), as well as one voice-based (Nuance Voice Control).

That ads enhanced search wasn't the only surprise. Voice-based search rated higher in terms of overall usability when compared to text-based searching.

Scott Weiss, president of Usable Products, said:

Users predicted voice search would be the worst of the four search products, but in final usability, it performed better than expected. We were surprised that participants enjoyed voice search, and how much more they liked it than searching via phone keypad.

This makes sense in that it is always easier and quicker to speak information than it is to type it in, especially on a standard mobile phone keypad. But not all voice systems are created equal. If it doesn't work correctly the first attempt, repeating steps can cause it to take longer. There is also an environmental factor to consider. Sometimes it is just not practical to speak aloud when performing a search, especially when you are in a noisy environment.

Weiss went on to say:

Mobile search is in its early stages, with many opportunities for improvement. While participants averaged an impressive 88% success rate in submitting mobile search queries, only 53% found relevant results. Participants who found what they were looking for averaged 143 seconds to submit queries and find answers. None of the four search solutions was a clear winner. Our researchers have developed 25 Best Practices, which if followed [by carriers/service providers], are likely to dramatically increase user satisfaction in mobile phone searches.

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