Imagine that every time you go to the supermarket, your shopping cart comes loaded with the same boxes of cereal.
This cereal is the most popular, so it is convenient to put it in the cart for the store. If you don’t like it, it’s quite simple to put it back on the shelf and get a different box.
This is essentially the gist of Google’s defense against the Justice Department consequential antitrust trial The case – the federal government’s first in the modern Internet era – is now headed to court.
the government has blamed Google Illegally using partnerships with handset manufacturers, computer manufacturers, and browser developers to suppress competitors in online search. Under those partnerships, The Justice Department argues, Google made its search engine the default service on most consumer electronics such as smartphones. This then stopped people from trying alternative search engines like Bing, DuckDuckGo and others.
But Google has argued that it’s easy for people to change their search engine — as simple as putting a box of cereal back on the store shelf.
The test raises questions about how and why we use Google Search. Many of us grew up searching the web on Google because it seemed to provide the best results with the least effort. But if there was something better, would we really know since Google is loaded on most of our devices? And even if we knew, would we be stuck with Google as its search engine set as the default?
I decided to test how easy or difficult it really is to switch to a different search engine. In a blog post this month, Google said the change was straightforward The process and three examples were presented:
On an iPhone, this takes four taps.
On Mac’s Safari browser, this takes two clicks.
On Android phones, this takes two taps.
So I followed Google’s instructions and also shared the company’s guidance with a panel of three design veterans. Verdict: Making change is hard – and most people will probably give up before they can complete the change.
“God help me, I’m dead,” Ted Selker, A product design veteran said the person who worked at IBM and Xerox PARC after reading the steps to change the search engine on an iPhone.
Harry Brignoll, a user-experience consultant in Britain, concluded about Google Search: “Most people will just stick with it.”
I had similar takeaways. This is what design experts and I found after trying to break away from a Google search.
on an iPhone
Google said iPhone owners can switch to a different search engine in four taps by opening the Settings app, tapping Safari, tapping Search Engines, and then selecting a search engine.
In fact, it is more complicated.
Once the Settings app opens, Safari doesn’t appear on the screen immediately. It’s hidden beneath 36 other menu items, so the user has to swipe up at least twice to find the Safari menu. In fact, it takes six taps.
But even four steps would probably be too many for many of us, Mr. Selker said. This might have been easy 15 years ago, when most Web browsing was done on stationary computers, but in the smartphone age, someone looking for that setting may be interrupted while on the move – for example about to board a bus.
“You can’t expect people to have multi-step memory,” he said.
With just two clicks, Google said, Mac users can switch the default search engine on the Safari browser to a different service — first by clicking the magnifying glass icon and then selecting a different search engine like Yahoo, Bing or DuckDuckGo. .
It’s much easier than the iPhone. But not everyone knows that the magnifying glass icon is a button – it allows people to enter a query in the search bar.
More problematic is that switching search engines can be confusing, because the steps are inconsistent between Safari on the iPhone and Safari on the Mac, said Tony Hu, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who oversees an engineering leadership program. Said.
“Overall, the average person will probably struggle with it,” he said.
Mr. Selker said a better design would be to make the search engine more “in your face,” such as asking users to choose a search engine when opening a browser.
“It has to make you aware that it exists until you dismiss it,” he said.
Google said, to see the remove button on Android phones, one has to press once for a long time on the search bar. Users can then tap on the Google Search Bar widget to remove it from the home screen.
This example is particularly flawed. First of all, Google’s steps to remove the search bar widget work on some Samsung phones, but they don’t work on all Android devices. For example, on Google’s Pixel phones, when a user long-presses on the search bar, no Remove option appears.
Most importantly, removing the search widget removes the shortcut to the Google search bar on the home screen, but it does not change the search engine in the Android web browser. Changing to a different search engine requires different steps. This is similar to the path on iPhone four step process Which includes opening the browser and changing its settings.
The broader lesson from the government’s antitrust trial against Google is that when companies arrange for things to become the default option, they know you’ll probably stick with the status quo because the awareness and effort to switch to the option is low, said author Mr. Brignole. Is required. Of “Deceptive Patterns: Exposing the tricks tech companies use to control you,
Google said in a statement that it was easier for people to change their default search engine on Android devices and Apple’s Safari. The company said that on Windows computers, which required a lengthy process to switch from Bing to Microsoft’s Edge browser as the default search engine, the majority of people chose Google as their search engine.
With all this in mind, and the instructions now in front of you, you can try other search engines. If it turns out you prefer Google anyway, at least it will be your decision – not Google’s.