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Google's VP Search Ben Gomes on mobile search's future

     
1:07 am on Sep 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I suppose Ben Gomes would be at the pinnacle of Google's knowledge and research into the future direction of search. He briefly sums up the challenges and opportunities involving mobile here:

"Now search is becoming mobile - on phones and tablets. The challenge is that it is on a small screen, so it's hard to type. The opportunity is that it's got a really good microphone and a touch screen. [bbc.co.uk...]
What are you noticing about mobile search and where do you think it's headed? How will you adapt both as a user and as a webmaster?

Thoughts?
1:45 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hmm... Less websites? A shift to apps that are voice and touch friendly?
2:05 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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One thing to watch is the usage of mobile devices (thinking phones for this point) as the only/main internet access device for young adults.

Too many people think about mobile actually being out and about, it's much more than that. Many of us will shudder to think that some (read very many) people are happy to use such limited (in size rather than capability) devices to do hours of online stuff every day. How do you cater for an audience you don't fully understand?

It's time to segment mobile into a few different usage scenarios with at least:

Small Screen (people using mobile like desktop, who use a desktop as a main device)
Primary Screen (the device is the main device, hence desktop familiarity lower)
Mobile Screen (actually on the move or out of the house)
Simplified Screen (Think apps and simplified mobile sites, possibly by choice the user opts for simplicity where available)
Medium Screen (tablets, no space issues but not a desktop environment)

Plus, you probably want to consider offline usage too - it's still an issue, especially if an app is needed by a mobile workforce.
2:46 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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inbound - From the designer standpoint, is there any common "break" point you can define where you switch from one type of site to another, and what might those design/developer choices be?
2:47 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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One possibility I see is folks more actively engaged in shared sets of devices and distribution methods. Size and keyboard issues might be overridden by the interaction of different means of access and instruction.

This could be :

- TV's - free to air and cable, POS advertising response to your personal device settings ( being mobile )
- Traditional media ( making a revival )
- Desktop / laptop
- Mobile / Tablet

To a degree this is already happening with people browsing the web on mobiles / tablets while TV watching and speech recognition starting to be quite useful.

It's interesting that Ben Gomes stated in a separate interview earlier, the impossibility of predicting search beyond 5 years. Here's the link if anyone's interested : [youtube.com...]
3:20 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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About 9-12 months ago I took a look at what part of my web traffic was showing as arriving via "mobile".

The figure was a total of around 15% but over 10% were using tablets.... and my sites work just fine on iPads and other similarly sized screens.

So the fundamental question for me became is it worthwhile to try and create mobile versions to cater for a small part of the possible audience that is using phones. Given that the sites are heavy on content and need decent screen size to display, the answer was an obvious no to creating mobile sites.

I would think this scenario is common to a high percentage of websites.... they are not a logical fit with smart phone screens.

Added:

How does limited displays on mobile screens fit with "content is king" which implies a decent amount of unique content? Isn't there a natural conflict trying to display 300-400 words of text.... never mind images, video etc.
9:42 am on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"content is king"

I wouldn't think "contentis king" is now, or was ever, about the "size" of the content.
12:48 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Useful is king. Is your site as useful on a phone as it is on a larger screen?
9:03 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg...

I'd have to agree with "useful".

It's hard to see how the heavyweight content sites like Wikipedia, Wikitravel, the official country and regional travel guides and any other encyclopedic type sites can be useful on phone screens.
9:51 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It's hard to see how the heavyweight content sites like Wikipedia, Wikitravel, the official country and regional travel guides and any other encyclopedic type sites can be useful on phone screens.


And that is your golden ticket to make money before they catch up.
10:50 pm on Sept 26, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Actually, Wikipedia works pretty well on a smart phone. It's some form of responsive or adaptive technology, but I've found it useful. Can't speak to the others.

Today I did a few searches for my sites from my iPhone; hadn't done that for a while. WAY impressed with the way the sitelinks look and work now; great sitelinks with arrows on each one to drill down. That may only exist for the top position though (I was only searching on obvious keyword strings) I dunno how long they've looked like this, it's the first time I noticed it. But it looked to me like a pretty good user experience getting the smartphone user right to the correct set of pages.
7:11 am on Sept 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Actually, Wikipedia works pretty well on a smart phone.


Our own two-column site (text on left, ads and such on right) looks small but is still readable in vertical format on an iPhone. It looks great on a Nexus 4--no readability problems at all, even for middle-aged eyes. If all smartphones had screens of 4 inches or larger, I might not bother with mobile pages.
10:09 pm on Oct 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

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PubCon: Mobile is going to be a key area in 2014, so pay attention to it. [seroundtable.com...]
11:54 am on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The problem with "mobile" in my opinion is that the terminology is ambiguous. You can think of mobile as the device or as an action. If it's the action, the critical factor is as much about time as it is screensize. If it's the device, the critical factor may be less time-critical and more about screensize. "Useful" content will probably need to adapt to the situation to be useful.
12:27 pm on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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One of the most eye opening things I have done recently is:

1) Look at "Browsers" on my stats... 28.9% Mobile plus 12% iPad (Last year it was nowhere near this).
2) Isolate "Visitor Paths" on the Mobile Browser Users and compare their paths with the Internet Explorer and Chrome User paths.

You can soon see where the website is not working on a mobile device!
3:24 pm on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I think "useful" is in the eyes of the beholder, and correlates to screen choices. Wikipedia truncates some entries on smartphones, which drives me crazy... so I just wait until I've got a bigger screen to read it on. So I'm not the type of mobile user you need to consider - I'm easily irritated by sites on that little screen, now that so many small, portable tablets are light enough to carry in my bag every day.

But I'm not a 20-something who's happy doing everything on her phone. She likely wouldn't know the entries are truncated.

So, I think SO MUCH user testing is going to be needed to get a good idea what's going on with all this. Maybe in a year, the tech options will settle down a little, too. For example, I'm thinking about dumping my smartphone for a pay as you go and using a cellular-equipped tablet for mail and browsing.
4:49 am on Nov 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Indexing apps just like websites

Today, we’re happy to announce a new capability of Google Search, called app indexing, that uses the expertise of webmasters to help create a seamless user experience across websites and mobile apps
[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.au...]

Deep links will start appearing in the SERP's in the next few weeks for Android devices.

It's coming. Thoughts?
 

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