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Simplifying Search For a Younger Audience 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the timmy-needs-his-pokemon-strats dept.
An article in the NY Times discusses how kids interact with search engines, which are primarily designed for adult users who are familiar with basic internet concepts. From the article: "When considering children, search engines had long focused on filtering out explicit material from results. But now, because increasing numbers of children are using search as a starting point for homework, exploration or entertainment, more engineers are looking to children for guidance on how to improve their tools. ... Stefan Weitz, director of Bing, said that for certain types of tasks, like finding a list of American presidents, people found answers 28 percent faster with a search of images rather than of text. He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children. ... Children also tend to want to ask questions like 'Who is the president?' rather than type in a keyword. Scott Kim, chief technology officer at Ask.com, said that because as many as a third of search queries were entered as questions (up to 43 percent on Ask Kids, a variant designed for children), it had enlarged search boxes on both sites by almost 30 percent."
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Simplifying Search For a Younger Audience

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  • Google (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I recommend they use google, then.

  • Wolfram Alpha seems to be a good step in this very direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Back when I inhabited sci.space.* on usenet it was customary to detect school projects and to tell the poster to GTFO. Somehow I doubt wolfram will do that so I wonder how many school projects it will solve in their entirety.

      • by zeroduck (691015)
        If Wolfram Alpha really can do the entire project. . . the teacher should be assigning more difficult things. Kids could use a basic calculator for ages to do their multiplication homework, somehow civilization still survives.
        • Currently Alpha fails to even estimate very simple questions ("estimate how many Christians are there in Hawaii?") despite having all the necessary information (religion rates there & population). I was hoping to find a generic order of magnitude problem solving engine, instead I found a hyped Ask Jeeves from 1997.

  • URLs? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:22AM (#30554632) Homepage Journal

    My son types whatever he wants into google. He doesn't know how to type URLs. My wife and her sister are the same. If home didn't go to a search engine they would be lost. If home didn't go to google they would search for google first.

    • Odd, my parents (55/60) do the same. My mom had no concept of how to go to 'gmail' other than to type 'gmail' into one of those 'empty boxes' at the top of the screen.

      If Firefox didn't automatically try and parse a partial URL, they'de be lost.

      My siblings seem to do ok. Where as I grew up right around the explosion of search engines seemed to hone in on what to type to get what I wanted. Hell 95% of the time I 'solve' a computer problem at work it's because the person I'm helping doesn't know how to type in

      • is a widow in her 70s...i'd put linux on her old pc so she could continue to use it after it became too slow (ie: win98 was bogged down with malware)-: but her grown kids got her a new windoze laptop (fuckin' microserfs)-:

        so the other day she called me, saying windoze had just updated itself, and now she can't get on webmail or anything...

        i click on her shortcuts, and a firefox window opens(i've @ least got her away from internet exploder;-) but it's too smal to show anything, maybe 1"x1", not even any cont

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Odd, my parents (55/60) do the same. My mom had no concept of how to go to 'gmail' other than to type 'gmail' into one of those 'empty boxes' at the top of the screen.

        I have relatives who would type in Gmail, please. That it's a computer is no reason to be rude!

        Anyhow, the ability to correctly deduce what keywords will give you the results you want seems to be rarer than it should be. Yet the ones deprived of Google-fu still use the "I'm feeling lucky" function, and then complain when it throws up a porn

    • by Suki I (1546431)

      My son types whatever he wants into google. He doesn't know how to type URLs. My wife and her sister are the same. If home didn't go to a search engine they would be lost. If home didn't go to google they would search for google first.

      I'm surprised at the number of people I have worked with who are the same way and many of them use Yahoo instead of Google. They tend to be the same people who are astonished at my use of keyboard commands. Happy Boxing Day!

    • by BrentH (1154987)
      That's because the whole concept of TLD's is unnatural because its not part of the name. Gmail is gmail, nog gmail.com. I think a lot of problems would be solved if we'd drop TLD's (and the www prefix!).
    • To be honest, I even find myself doing this a lot. I's use I'm feeling luck except my spelling is awful most of the time. It doesn't help that I normally work across multiple machines with distinct bookmarks and no system to synch them.

  • Seriously, this reads more like the 'Mikey likes it!' life cereal commercial than research.

    This must explain why google has such a slim market share

  • Kids aren't stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:27AM (#30554644)

    Now look, the moment new tech comes onto the field, it's usually kids or other youths who, after somehow obtaining it, are the ones most comfortable with it.

    You don't hear a lot of stories about kids going "Well this newfangled contraption is far too complicated. No sirree, back to the cosmombulating gizmotron 3000 which has worked for me for the last 30 years."

    You don't need to make a "kiddy" version of the search engine. Children will learn to use the adult tools easily and will be prepared for the future. If we force them to use dumbed down versions, eventually dumbed down versions will be the norm since the next generation will be against changing it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is exactly it...

      I am a teenager, and even I can notice it. 30 seconds with a new piece of software I'm already better at than most adults 20 minutes in with the manual. They are incredulous, "How did you know how to do that?!?!" I have no explanation, it just seemed natural that that button is used for this, and if I want to do some heavy duty photo editing I'm going to need to download a crack for photoshop and etc... It just comes from growing up with technology.

      Just leave things the way they are, ki

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        To be fair, your feeling of superiority is mainly because you're a teenager.

      • by bertok (226922) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @05:38AM (#30554940)

        This is exactly it...

        I am a teenager, and even I can notice it. 30 seconds with a new piece of software I'm already better at than most adults 20 minutes in with the manual. They are incredulous, "How did you know how to do that?!?!" I have no explanation, it just seemed natural that that button is used for this, and if I want to do some heavy duty photo editing I'm going to need to download a crack for photoshop and etc... It just comes from growing up with technology.

        Just leave things the way they are, kids will adapt and they'll probably be better at it than most adults in 20 minutes, just like I am now.

        I have to second this.

        People assume that just because they had a hard time adapting to technology as adults, that children would have an even harder time. I've found that the opposite is true. A family friend has an AD domain for his children's PCs, and they understood the concept of a 'user', 'logging in', etc... at the age of 4 or 5! I started programming in basic when I was about 7 years old, and I could code proficiently in C++ by 13. I remember having XT-era PCs at school, and even though we had very little time assigned to use them (a few hours a month), many students learned a lot of basic skills in no time at all.

        I actually work for a department of education at the moment, and my instructions are not to "dumb down" apps too much for children. About the only thing I did was make some screen elements highlight during the "on mouse over" event, as very young children have poor hand-eye coordination. A strong visual effect helps them target and click more effectively. I've sen similar features in other "for kids" apps too.

        I collect search logs from a library app used by about 600,000 children, and they search well enough. Junior kids tend to use shorter words ("dog" and "cat" are very popular terms), but other than that, they seem to find what they're looking for relatively quickly.

    • Now look, the moment new tech comes onto the field, it's usually kids or other youths who, after somehow obtaining it, are the ones most comfortable with it.

      So the folklore has it. But like all folklore, it's only partly truth.

      You don't need to make a "kiddy" version of the search engine. Children will learn to use the adult tools easily and will be prepared for the future. If we force them to use dumbed down versions, eventually dumbed down versions will be the norm since the next generation will

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:33AM (#30554662)

    And stop dumbing everything down. It used to be that entering a couple of words into a search engine gave a somewhat predictable result. Now every search engine keeps second-guessing me. "Did you mean...? We've already included the suggested results." No, if I had meant that, then I would have typed it. Some words have become almost unsearchable because search engines keep "generalizing" them to words so generic that they hardly filter anything anymore (which happens easily considering there are more languages than English and similar looking words can mean very different things). Until computers become sentient and can actually "do what I mean", I want them to do what I tell them to do, got it?

    • Now every search engine keeps second-guessing me. "Did you mean...?

      Yeah, it's great. I can type any old s**t into Google and it knows exactly what I mean!

    • by grumbel (592662)

      Some words have become almost unsearchable because search engines keep "generalizing" them to words so generic that they hardly filter anything anymore

      Quote the words (i.e. "foobar" instead of just foobar), that disables the generalization and spelling fixes, at least for Google.

    • This kind of guessing can be useful. If I am unsure about the spelling of a word, I search for it the way I recall, and Google will probably give me: "Did you mean: [the correct spelling]".

      On the other hand, it can be a pain if it's done wrong. In a certain auction site, I searched for 'Integris' (a computer accessories brand), and got hundreds of results that included "integrated", "integrator", "integral" -- everything that was vaguely similar, and I found no way around to search for the exact spelling on

      • by Dwedit (232252)

        Put a plus sign before the keyword, that will force a particular spelling.

      • On the other hand, it can be a pain if it's done wrong.

        Over the last year, Google's spelling correction has steadily become more aggressive. At first, Google just suggested "Did you mean X?", but gave you the results for what you'd specified. Then they started displaying "Did you mean X", and gave you the results for X. Then they just gave you the results after spelling correction and don't even tell you they did. Recently, they've backed that off a little, and now intermix results from the original q

  • clunky interfaces (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seeker_1us (1203072) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @03:52AM (#30554712)

    He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children.

    Funny, this is the opposite reasoning as to why I started using Google over yahoo/excite/altavista.

    All the other search providers started cluttering their pages up. Google was simple and clean and did what I wanted.

    • He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children.

      Funny, this is the opposite reasoning as to why I started using Google over yahoo/excite/altavista. All the other search providers started cluttering their pages up. Google was simple and clean and did what I wanted.

      And of course, your preferences and idiosyncrasies are exactly the same as everyone else's. Not to mention the difference between search providers results pages as so small, as far as clutter goes

  • by hwyhobo (1420503) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @04:34AM (#30554790)

    After all, "Bob" was a great success.

  • A better search (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @04:41AM (#30554802) Journal

    Won't that be grand? Computers and the programs will start thinking and the people will stop.

    - Dr. Walter Gibbs

    With apologies, but the wisdom of TRON seems so appropriate right about now.

  • Ask.com (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Saturday December 26, 2009 @04:48AM (#30554812)

    I don't think their search boxes not being big enough is the main improvement they need to work on. How about improving search results by 30% instead?

    And they've been doing this for a while too. In an interview last year [practicalecommerce.com], their exec mainly droned on about Ask3D, one of their many hare-brained attempts to make an "Ask X", where X is some stupid representation of results for gimmicky or audience-targeting purposes.

    In some ways, it's not totally stupid from a business point of view. Google has pretty good results (though the web's increasing noisiness and the arms race with SEO is making them maybe worse than they once were), and it's hard to beat them at that game. So competitors are inevitably trying to find other angles on which to compete, like trying to come up with results presentation that's snazzier than Google's list of links (though Google's list of links is getting more complicated in graphically subtle but quite useful ways), or special versions like "Ask Kids" to try to convince niche audiences that they need something special for them rather than a general-purpose search engine. But I'm not really convinced there's anything to these attempts.

  • Hey, I used to be the kid that learned everything by himself and taught my parents how computers and programs work.
    Microsoft, the nanny company?
  • by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @05:52AM (#30554972)

    Or simplifying advertising and targeting results?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2009 @05:56AM (#30554980)

    I have two boys (age 2 and 4) and, by simply observing the way they learn, I can easily spot logical flaws in software or UI in general :-) For example, they tend to mix Google Earth and Network Connection panel on Win as they both use Earth-like _icon_. They can't find things on Win7 because UI and _icons changed_ (their first OS was XP). Furthermore, they manage to run application from Win Explorer by it's _order_ - not it's name since they can't read and English is not their native language anyways. They adopted multitouch UI last year in a _day_ (moving, resizing, running things) which tells more than tonns of studies. Younger boy adopts things faster because older one already "dumbs things down" to the level they can both understand.

  • I tried to simply search for a younger audience, now I think I'm on some FBI watch list.
  • Children are much more open to new ideas and learn much faster than adults. Why the hell would they need a simplified interface? Senior citizens are the ones in need of simplified interfaces.
  • translation (Score:4, Funny)

    by mrphoton (1349555) on Saturday December 26, 2009 @09:07AM (#30555366)
    "He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children. ..." translation: bing is for children who have not yet leant how to set the default search engine to google.
  • Kids who can type "who is the president?" (implied: "...of the US") into a search engine and get a result back probably already know the answer.

  • Anyone remember Yahooligans? [archive.org]

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