Some Internet Users Can’t Find Google

    March 21, 2008

This week, usability guru Jakob Nielsen asks: “How difficult is it to perform a search on Google?

No, really. How hard is it? We know the search box in the upper right hand corner of your screen can get there. We know that in the address bar can get there. But, sadly, Nielsen’s study indicated that at least 24% of Internet users don’t know that. It hurts me just to type it.

A quarter of Internet users said they wanted to search Google for something, but when placed in front of a computer, couldn’t figure it out. “Instead, they either completely failed to get to any search engine or ended up running their query on a different search engine — usually whatever type-in field happened to be at hand.”

Nielsen breaks this mind-boggling stat down for us:

On the one hand, 76% is a high success rate. On the other hand, getting to Google is a very simple task. It’s not even a true task — that is, it’s not something users want to accomplish for its own sake or something we’d pose as an assignment in user testing. Getting a Google search box is the first step in searching the Web, which is only the first step in doing something real (such as, in one of our test tasks, to find “a strong vacuum cleaner that is easy to use, can pick up pet hair, and costs under $300″).

Also, for this round of research we’re deliberately recruiting above-average users, so the success rate across all Internet users is probably lower than our finding.

Suddenly, The Onion’s article a few months back about “” doesn’t look quite so funny:

All you have to do to turn the website on is put the little blinking line thing in the cyberspace window at the top of the screen, type ‘,’ and press ‘return’—although it will also recognize,, and ‘THEGOOGLE’ typed into a Word document.”

Maybe there’s a real need for remedial Internet…

Nielsen’s overall point was to remind us all that our average user, and the web audience at large, doesn’t understand the Internet the way we do. Unfortunately, I think the net effect of his findings will be lowered self-esteem among SEMs and a generalized funk to last over the next several days. (Exacerbated, of course, by your alma mater losing in the first round of the NCAAs. Again. Come on, I know I’m not the only one. I know you Drake fans are mad, too.)