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Accessibility and Usability Forum

Google launch search for the visually challenged

 4:11 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Accessible Search is an early Google Labs product designed to identify and prioritize search results that are more easily usable by blind and visually impaired users. Regular Google search helps you find a set of documents that is most relevant to your tasks. Accessible Search goes one step further by helping you find the most accessible pages in that result set.




 5:27 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Why is the top result sometimes red and sometimes not?

Example: "webmaster" [google.com] (blue) "webmaster world" [google.com] (red)

[edited by: whoisgregg at 5:39 pm (utc) on July 20, 2006]


 5:34 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

"yahoo" [google.com]

Does red mean "this is the result you probably want even if it's not the first, most accessible result?"


 5:46 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Man, am I stupid.

<body bgcolor=#ffffff text=#000000 link=#0000ee
vlink=#ff0000 alink=#000099>

Bright freakin' red just gets me all worked up apparently. First feature request? Stick with the purple for visited links. :)


 5:56 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ad-free too :)
Almost looks like Google pre-2002.

[edited by: amznVibe at 5:57 pm (utc) on July 20, 2006]


 6:23 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google pre-2002?

Look at the copyright date when you do a search...

Copyright 2000 Google Inc


 7:15 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is an interesting (but short) article from Reuters which contains an interview with the lead developer for the Accessible Search product, T.V. Raman (who is blind):

Google tests more accessible Web search for blind [today.reuters.com]

Accessible Search rates how, on balance, each Web page handles such issues and gives priority to pages that do the best job of balancing relevant data and solid design.

When comparing results with the standard Google results, it does appear that image-heavy sites and sites with, for example, video content are heavily downgraded in favor of simpler text-rich sites.


 7:24 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's somewhat ironic that the SERPs don't comply with some of the most basic accessibility guidelines:
* no doctype
* markup used for styling purposes (<b>)
* tables for layout


 8:11 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

how are they profiting from this? Or is it the usual model of giving away bandwidth + cpu time and praying that somehow it'll make money.


 8:35 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

For the handful of searches I tried pages from one of my sites that usually rank in the first position still rank in the first position. I'd normally think this is great, but these pages are based on a design first cobbled together in 1997 and that has been, well, completely abused since then. The HTML behind them is a complete mess.

This tells me one of two things: Either Raman did a very bad job of modeling what's accessible or not, or the web is more messed up than I ever realized.


 11:20 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

how are they profiting from this?

  • Deposits in the caring-company account
  • Avoiding future law-suits (remember Google is global and taking all reasonable measures to permit accessibility is a legal requirement in many countries, e.g. the UK)
    As a blind person planning to make a scapegoat to push online accessibility forward, who would you choose to sue? That's right, Google. With profits like they are recording it would be tough to argue that accessibility was outside of their resources.
  • Web-feeds-web: new visually-impaired users mean more market share, more recommendations from the (generally very loyal) visually-impaired community to all communities, press coverage leading to both new sighted and new visually-impaired users.
  • Stock price increase due to avoiding looking stagnant. Nothing front-end has affected Google's core search functionality for a long time. This is a true new core search functionality.
  • cerebrum

     11:31 pm on Jul 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Services like these differentiate Google from rest of the stereotype companies.


     12:39 am on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Bit of a half hearted effort from Google as usual.
    The page does not validate for XHTML 1.0 Transitional
    They must have someone kicking around the office who can code a decent page.

    They never seem to dedicate a lot of time to anything until it starts rolling in the money.

    Google have so many Beta products out there, when are they going to finish something?

    Not impressed.


     12:50 am on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Some interesting results for some of the searches I tried, quite accurate for one of the more spammy sectors I keep an eye on.


     1:29 pm on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    The following 2 messages were cut out to new thread by encyclo. New thread at: accessibility_usability/3017224.htm [webmasterworld.com]
    10:06 am on July 21, 2006 (utc -4)


     2:07 pm on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    A nice search, but riddle me this: some of the terms I watch return the top 3 results as having alt text spam, search spam or other nefarious spam techniques used. Will google heed a spam report from Accessible Search more than a spam report from regular SERPS? What is the point of having a site with 30 pictures and an average of 48 words per alt text read in a text browser? That is alt text repeating the same phrase a bunch of times in different variations.


     3:31 pm on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Interesting that a search for 'webmasterworld' does not bring back this site in the first position. The site which is leading has a number of 'accessible features' including accesskeys, title tags and alt tags. The CSS, however, is non-standard and there is no shortage of javascript functionality.

    Based on that small sample I think that sites are being downgraded if they don't have ALT tags, TITLE tags, or ACCESS KEYS. Fonts on both this site and the other are scalable.


     4:21 pm on Jul 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

    form google Accessible Search FAQ

    How do you decide which sites are "accessible" and which are not?

    [...]Currently we take into account several factors, including a given page's simplicity, how much visual imagery it carries and whether or not it's primary purpose is immediately viable with keyboard navigation.

    what I can make out of this:

  • page simplicity: flash, videos, sound, dhtml ARE NOT simple so they are 'downgraded' - they may even extend this to table based vs table less designs
  • visual imagery: image heavy sites, maybe even image based navigation, obvious non-use of alt tags are 'penalised'
  • keyboard navigation = accesskeys

    Anything else I missed?

  • Tidal2

     9:33 am on Jul 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Just noting that there are national versions too


    For example.


     5:54 pm on Jul 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Another more detailed article about the service with interview quotes from T.V. Raman:

    Raman said: "We don't test against WCAG. We think in the spirit of those guidelines, but we don't test against them verbatim." Instead he endeavoured to identify "what works for the end-user," describing a process of "experimentation, training and machine learning. (...) We look for a set of signals, do some numbers, see what comes out..."


     12:48 am on Jul 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    If google want to provide a search service for Visually Impaired users why haven't they changed the white background color. Only a small percentage of V.I. people are totally blind - the glare of the white background makes it very difficult for partially sighted users to read the content. Also difficult for people with Irlen Syndrome/color sensitivities.

    Just noticed also that the search doesnt have the spellcheck function of the normal google.


     9:01 am on Jul 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Just wondering why Google don't do this for their normal search. Then people would be forced to make accessible sites.


     9:21 am on Jul 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    @Hester: whatever Google's mission may be (organize the world's information? make money for shareholders?), making the web more accessible is not.


     8:38 am on Jul 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

    That's a pity. They could have a lot of influence in this area, which would benefit everyone.


     8:56 am on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

    That's a pity. They could have a lot of influence in this area, which would benefit everyone.


    As (one of) the company that has the most impact in todays' internet, I thinks it should become they 'social responsability' to help improve the 'web accessibility' as well as continuing to improve their algo.

    I don't mean that this should become their priority (no change in business model etc) BUT with the tools at their disposal, they should actively 'promote' web accessibiliy.


     3:11 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Looks like old Google page
    Good that they care about those people

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