Google isn’t the best search engine in the world by accident. There are a number of reasons that Google left other engines like AltaVista, MetaCrawler, Lycos, AskJeeves and Yahoo in the dust and why Bing still struggles to make inroads on Google’s market share. Chief among these reasons is Google’s commitment to research and development, innovation and user experience. Google constantly experiments with elements of the search engine results pages, makes adjustments to improve its algorithm and adds features (e.g. Google Instant Search) that users didn’t even realize they wanted. As a result, users know they can trust Google to deliver the best experience in search because there’s never been a reason to look elsewhere.
Well, nothing has changed! If you own a smartphone, you are likely aware that Googling something on your mobile device has a similar but optimized feel compared to Googling something on your desktop. There are ads cluttering up the side, the links are big enough to easily be able to select them with your thumb and phone numbers are more commonly displayed and automatically enable click-to-call. These small changes keep users happy and keep manufacturers of web operating systems choosing Google as the default search engine.
Up until recently, the Google experience on tablets has been very similar to the experience on desktops. Of course, even though the activity on tablets more closely resembles activity on desktops than does the activity of smartphones, the experiences are distinct. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that Google has released an update for its iPad app just in time for the holiday shopping season. One of my favorite blogs, Lifehacker, summarized the details rather succinctly:
Google’s Search app just received a nice update for iPad, bringing some nice interface enhancements. This includes Google Instant, which is better late than never, but you’ll probably find the other stuff more exciting. For example, you can load a web page in a side tab after you search and then swipe back to your search results to look for other pages while that side tab is loading. The app also features a pretty slick image viewer that’s in a similar style to Apple’s cover flow but a bit more practical. If you want to look up any of your past searches you can with a visual search history browser. You also get easier access to existing search tools and other Google Apps.
Google is expecting big things for its online retailers this holiday, projecting a 6% increase in spending this year over last on holiday gifts. Furthermore, Google expects mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to play a significant role in the 2011 shopping season; 68% of shoppers will use their smartphone while shopping and a whopping 82% will use their tablet. This activity will include comparing product features, searching for coupons and discounts, finding physical store location, analyzing pricing differences across online retailers as well as during in-store shopping. Of course, this activity will also include completing purchases on mobile devices more than ever. Google believes that a full 26% of actual purchases this season will be made on a mobile device (17% smartphone, 9% tablet)**.
With mobile devices like smartphones and tablets set to play such a large role in holiday shopping this year, it should be no small wonder why Google is looking to improve the tablet experience just in time for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and every day thereafter leading up to Christmas. Make sure that your site is ready to do business online on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. If you’re not optimized for each experience, then you’re probably missing out. Just ask Google! If it didn’t benefit Google to make each experience unique, do you think they would have hurried to get their iPad app updated this week?
**All data from this paragraph from Google’s “Holiday 2011: Consumer Intentions” webinar.