Posted by Paul Williams, Search Analyst (Natural Search)
A few weeks back, I wrote about Yahoo’s release of Inquisitor for the iPhone. It’s an app that interfaces with the search suggestion technology available with the Yahoo Web site, but results are truncated and optimized for mobile (and it works like a charm). If you look at this from angle, this is a pretty simple analogy for everything else that’s happening in mobile. As I explored in the second part of this series, APIs are being used to reorganize and supply the mobile users with powerful solutions. So how are mobile users still searching, and how will they search in the future?
Search engines won’t be replaced anytime soon, but what people use them for could change dramatically. Why would I search for movie tickets via Google if I have the Fandango app ready to go on my iPhone? Regardless of whether the “semantic web” takes off anytime soon, these little applications offer plenty of information within seconds. They are direct, they emphasize the data, and they cut out the fat. It’s what mobile users want and expect. From a design perspective, it’s also imperative – you have less room to convert your visitor, so clutter-free and easily navigable content is a must. But the whole mobile movement also makes it easier to convert someone – they are not as easily distracted, and their intent is so clear, it’s hard to provide them anything but a shortcut to the checkout cart.
Then there’s the whole GPS thing, and local search knows how important that can be. But are people using Google search to locate a nearby restaurant, or are they using the Yelp application? Would users be willing to purchase concert tickets at a nearby venue immediately on their phone if it’s easy to do, or would they forget by the time they arrived back at their PC later that night? It quickly becomes apparent that the immediacy, intimacy, and interactivity of mobile phones will help the medium become more important than the laptop or desktop ever was.
Interfacing with the Internet always comes back to speed. If it’s slow, users are turned off. If it’s designed like a .gov site, users won’t bother. Mobile is no different. You can’t get away with bad design in a mobile world; content has to be spiffy, convenient, and concise. Mobile users are willing to buy if it’s easy, immediate, and relevant. User intent is arguably more important with mobile users because they don’t want to bother loading a site if it won’t give them what they want. The great thing about the Inquisitor app is that it caters to this new requirement – it scrapes the page’s meta description or summary, presenting it to the visitor while the page loads. All it takes for a finicky searcher is a quick punch of the “back button” and you can about forget about even keeping track of those bounce rates. Stay tuned next week for Mobile’s Great Expectations, Part 4: Capturing the Future.