Defining media design -- and why it matters now more than ever
Part Three: Seek and Ye Shall Find (The Importance of Search in Media Design)
Parts 1 and 2 in this article series discussed the value of audio cues and the split-second "look" for successful media design. Today's installment covers the importance of search optimizing.
When thinking media design, search optimization has always been critically important. This is true for all forms of marketing: if a product can't be "found", it can't be sold. So, to begin, realize the concept of "search" as it applies to brands and media trends isn't new. It's centuries old. Only the platform and technique has changed.
The classic Yellow Pages has connected people to business for nearly a hundred years. Ads on TV or radio serve as search "pointers" helping influence purchasing decisions, specifically identifying business locations and sales. Books, newspapers, leaflets, flyers and magazines -- the original forms of media -- are society's traditional template for media search. When we need to know about a certain subject, we picked up the printed form of media to guide our search for knowledge, obtained at the newsstands or libraries. The Dewey decimal system was the Modern "search engine" for 150 years...and publishers needed to "optimize" consumer search based on that system.
Of course, the Internet is the new Modern search engine...and it is changing the way media get optimized for search. Traditional search tools still work and have their own importance; however, optimizing search online is still not fully understood. Plus, how it works is still evolving, making it even more challenging to optimize it.
While paided/sponsored search results have gained popularity (especially as a revenue source), it's not how people generally find websites on the Internet. Organic search -- results found from spyders and searchbots based on keywords, published content and link usage -- is still the best way for average internet users to find what they seek. It's how more than 9 out 10 searches are conducted on the Internet.
Generally, search engines from the Top 8 (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Ask/Ask Jeeves, Excite, Lycos, Altavista) are what most people use. However, there are some good upstarts (Dogpile, Clusty, Alltheweb). Gaining in popularity are the sub-search engines within popular communities (the overwhelming, difficult-to-navigate MySpace -- which is expanding at too fast a rate to easily catalogue -- is a perfect example).
The key for successful search online -- as supported by many theorists as well as researched studies (and even demonstrated by this Jointblog) -- is to make sure media design is simple, effective and "search-friendly". All media design search strategies should have this common objective: be a top-result (either first or second in organic search results) for keywords (and "tagwords") easily and simply describing "who" and "what" define your media product. When it comes to media design and search, "fancy" usually does not make a difference; search engines are not style snobs.
A website can be designed by the most fabulous Madison Avenue ad house but still fail miserably in attracting traffic, value and use if its media design doesn't satisfy the basic requirement of helping people find something they need. And before that can even happen, you have to first of all have your media design found first.
Remember the adage: if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
So, if search engine strategy is important for effective media design, which search engines are most effective and should design be tailored for the best search engine?
Absolutely, it should....and Google is still the best.
For the second year running, a Customer Experience rankings study of Search Engine Sites (from Keynote Systems) says Google provides the most satisfying search experience among North American users, despite competitive maneuvering from all of the other major search services.
The study captured more than 250 metrics for each site and benchmarked 13 key business success measures, including user satisfaction, home page design and appeal, future usage and other factors. In addition to looking at general web search, this year's study also looked at local and image search.
Google outperformed its competitors in all 13 business success drivers measured in the study. Yahoo put in a strong second place showing in 12 of the 13 drivers measured. The top "impact drivers" that affected user perceptions were general search quality, home page appeal, special features and perceived site performance.
Ask Jeeves ranked third, followed by MSN Search and AOL's public web search site. The study also looked at AOL's member-only search and it would have tied Ask Jeeves in third place had it been available to all users.
This on-going series will cover the top success drivers for media design in its next installment.
related research article
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Thursday, January 19, 2006,