Want to improve your search?

We've got 3 top tips for you.

I once asked a class of final year undergraduates how many of them continued searching past the first page of Google results. One or two hands went up, but most remained firmly in pockets. It was no surprise then, to read Jakob Nielsen's most recent commentary on web usability:

Incompetent research skills curb users' problem solving skills

In short, he explains that the dominance of search on the internet is having a detrimental effect on our ability to solve problems. When faced with a question, whether it be how, who, what, when or where, our first thought is invariably to Google it. It's just too easy to find an answer by typing words into a box. And if the first attempt doesn't yield useful results, searchers spend precious time going round and round in circles, rarely considering alternative approaches.

The behaviour pattern is so ingrained that it's practically impossible to change it, so what can be done to help the average person on their quest for information?

First, when designing for the web, it's essential to take into account the way people actually act. Professionals shouldn't be driven by how they themselves visualise a site and its content. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) brings people to your site, but once they arrive, you also need a structure that makes content easy to find and an interface design that's easy to use.

Second, those who can, should encourage others to develop better internet research skills. So here's some help from us. if you're not having much luck with your Google research, don't waste any more time. Try changing tack with Monaco IQ's top 3 search tips:

  1. Take a step back
    Step away from your computer screen for a few minutes. Take a pen and paper and make a list of organisations that might have the information you need and try searching their websites. For example, if you're looking for statistics for towns in the South of France, search the French statistical office website, not the whole of the internet.
  2. Change your strategy, not just your search words
    If you're getting too many poor quality hits, think laterally. For example, you're sneezing and coughing and want to know if that means you're suffering from hayfever or a summer cold. You've spent some time searching for your symptoms and found too many quack sites and discussion groups. Change tack and search for the conditions instead.
  3. Check out advanced search
    People rarely use advanced search, or if they do, they often use it incorrectly. Try the 2 advanced features we use most : by date, and phrase search.
  4. For more tips, check our research help page.