Is Speed Important?
The other day, I was talking to one of our clients – for whom we are designing a semantic search engine – and he made a comment which deserves some consideration.
According to him, it is essential that a search engine be very rapid, like Google, which gives results in two to three tenths of a second on average. In fact, he believes that his search engine should be even faster because Google filters who knows how many billions of pages, while his Intranet contains less than a million J. I tried to explain to him that speed is only one of many important aspects.
Like in many other fields, Google has been successful in transforming a technical (and very internal) aspect into a feature which has become important for users. Without a doubt, speed has become essential for Google as well as for other search engines. In fact, many common searches are no longer carried out, but are “preprogrammed” by the system because this means cutting down on servers (thousands and thousands), electrical energy, bandwidth and more.
Establishing how important speed actually is for users is a complicated task: obviously, the less time it takes the better, but I ask myself if it wouldn’t be better to wait even 10 times longer (meaning only 2 or 3 seconds) in order to have better results.
In fact, based on the latest market research, 40% of Internet searches do not receive results, half of the searches have to be reworded in order to get better results and 46% of the search sessions are longer than 20 minutes. Given this situation, personally, I would be happy to wait 2 seconds longer if it means that I will find what I’m looking for more often and/or it reduces the search time of 20 minutes even by just 5 minutes.
Perhaps the problem lies within the fact that with the current technology, Google and other search engines do not know how to improve search results, even if they took 10 times longer. Therefore, they use a simple tactic as a backstop (a kind of unspoken agreement with the user, which is probably tolerable): I’ll give you answers quickly (and for free), but don’t expect too much quality-wise!