Founded in 1998, Google has fast become the world’s largest and most popular search engine offering access more than 8 billion URLs.

Reasons for Google’s success have been well documented recently – It’s simplicity and resistence to advertising and clutter on the homepage are two key reasons for its dominance, not forgetting that it consistently delivers satisfactory results with clear headings, a summary of the search result and the originating URL.

The user can easily refine their query because Google retains their original search string in search boxes placed at both the top and bottom. Sponsored links are housed-off to the right of the page which allows the user to focus on or ignore them depending on their requirements.

Such is the quality of Google that I think that we’re beginning to see the emergence of a behavioural pattern affecting Google users – or Googlisation!

Googlisation can be described as the conditioning of users’ expectations and behaviour by the format, popularity and prevalence of the search engine Google. Naturally, this has an impact on design of websites and intranets.

In usability tests we have noticed that a growing number of users will have quick resort to the search functionality if the path to the required information is not patently clear from the homepage via the main content area or navigation. So, what does this mean?

It would seem that the general user population are starting to look more and more towards the search functionality rather than formal navigation structures in order to find information. Therefore, the search functionality is fast becoming one of the most important aspects of your web site or intranet.

What can you do? Googlisation is not an excuse for neglecting an intuitive, manageable and consistent navigation scheme.

However, I would advise to make searching for information on your site easy to perform. There are many ways you can do this, but of course the information must be searchable in the first place.

This requires good metadata for documents, well structured code, effective page titles and proper use of headings and alt tags.

*by guest columnist Frank Gaine, director of consulting services, Usability by Design.

About Usability by Design

Established in 1997, Usability by Design specialises in improving the customer experience across all forms of interface, ranging from mobile devices to web and software applications.

The latest techniques in usability, accessibility and interaction design are employed to ensure ease of use and maximum ROI for clients. Usability by Design has experience in a wide range of sectors, from banking and financial services through to e-commerce, travel, education, Local Government and more.

With offices in the UK and Australia, Usability by Design counts as its customers a variety of high profile national and global organisations.

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd February 2005