Marhsall Kirkpatrick of Read Write Web makes a supposition that may be inherently incorrect.
A huge number of people online don’t know the difference between their browser’s address bar and search bar. Let’s keep that in perspective. What will it take for them to learn?
That particular point has created a great conversation over at Read Write Web including an extremely well thought out response from John Andrews.
The path to Amazon.com via Google is a richer experience for her [a user] than the direct navigation path, without much cognitive overhead and without much perceived risk.
To read John’s entire response head on over to Read Write Web. I however believe that another commenter, Jahbuh, got it right when he said;
The answer is very simple – People feel safer with Google correcting their mistakes than the typo sending them to a virus, porn laden site. How many times has a slip of the finger sent you to a site you would never visit? Do a Google search and even if you do a typo somehow Google still points you to the site you want to go to.
I don’t believe it is the advertising industry wanting to take advantage of inexperienced consumers, I don’t think it is a design issue of the navigation bar, and I don’t believe it is user ignorance that drives users to use Google and the other search engines for direct navigation.
I believe the majority of users use the search box for direct navigation because it provides a higher level of convenience and safe surfing. Should a user mistype a URL, if they are using a search engine, it will try to guess what the user actually intended and provide a set of search results that are free of any malicious software while providing the user with the opportunity to avoid any unwanted content.
For a number of years I believe a few individuals in the search marketing industry and some decision makers in companies promoting products that were perceived as malicious made business decisions that allowed them to make a lot of money while hardening users to the dangerous realities of the internet. This type of behavior and decision making is what changed the way users interact with the web.
Using search engines for direct navigation has almost become a common sense approach for many users because so many people in the past were infected with software that they didn’t want and had enormously difficult times removing. Gator was the name that became synonymous with the term “spy ware” and it along with other similar types of software I believe are what really changes the browsing habits of the general public.
What do you think, in this day and age can users really not tell the difference between a search engine’s search box and the navigation bar or is there a deeper relationship between users and search engines?