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People browse by search (or ReadWriteWeb faces the Facebook Login problem)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Feb-2010 22:55

For the last few years I have been telling people I meet that Internet users "browse by search". Basically some (a lot) of Internet users have a search website as their homepage and have no idea what the address bar in the browser does. These users fill the search field with a company name - or a URL even - and hit the first link in the search results.

What happens next is strange: people completely disregard any signs - logos, text - and treat that page as their final destination.

I know it, because every second week or so the last few years I have been receiving emails from people trying to sort their problems with either one of the big telcos in the country (Telecom New Zealand or Vodafone New Zealand). Those queries go from a simple address change, to account cancellation, some even with full credit card numbers asking to have their accounts paid with that card.

Every time I receive one of those I pass it on to the appropriate company, copying the sender.

People seem to completely ignore the www.geekzone.co.nz in the address bar when in fact they were looking for Telecom or Vodafone. They completely ignore there's no Telecom or Vodafone logo anywhere in our pages. They completely ignore common sense and provide personal information that I could use for other purposes if I wanted to be bad.

Today ReadWriteWeb (RWW), one of the top technology blogs around, found out about this "problem". They posted about a project to integrate Facebook friend into a user's AOL IM account and in a matter of hours they received a couple of hundred comments of people complaining about their Facebook login problems.

Never mind Facebook pages are blue and RWW is red. Never mind the address bar showed www.readwriteweb.com and not www.facebook.com.

It looks like RWW found out what "normal" people already know: the Internet is hard for users. Perhaps because RWW reports on technology that is sometimes way ahead of what average users actually consume, they seemed surprised by this discovery. One sentence from their post on this is the sum of all:

"Users dont't care about what you care about."

In other words, all those cool sites, mashups, technology glitter are great for the tech heads, but they are not what your average Internet users care about.

Think about this when creating your online service. Make it too cool or complicated and people won't use it. Make it simple and it might have a chance to stand out in the middle of all the other services that show up every single day.

UPDATE: Want to see other posts where people "don't get it"? Check "Skype Free Credit" for an idea.



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freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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