Sunday, December 27

NY Times Article on Childrens Search

The NY Times had a recent article on search for kids. They covered a study sponsored by Google and performed by Allison Druin at the HCI lab at UMd that conducted a user study with 83 kids to understand how they search. My wife is an elementary school teacher, so this a topic we've often discussed and is particularly interesting.

In recent related work, Druin published, How Children Search the Internet with Keyword Interfaces which was performed on 12 kids. Read section 6 for their suggestions on user interfaces. Here are several of their possibilities: (1) using voice search instead of typing, (2) simplified results pages (3) results that are at an appropriate reading level. The NY Times article appears to describe a larger follow-up study.

The NY Times interviewed Irene Au, Google’s Director of User Experience for ways the research could be incorporated into a product. They note that they keyword mismatch problem is much challenging for kids, who have less of the conceptual framework of a subject necessary to be effective. From the article, “The problems that kids have with search are probably the problems adults experience, just magnified... If we can solve that for children we can solve that for adults." However, I'm not convinced that this is a correct conclusion. Druin says that the bottom of the screen is an area that offers an important area to suggest related searches.

In the article, representatives from Bing and also weigh in; a representative from Y! is notably absent given Y!'s presence in this market. Stefan Weitz, from Bing suggests that visual interfaces offer an opportunity because kids haven't developed typing skills. Scott Kim, from says that kids are more likely than adults to ask questions. Perhaps if we catch them early enough, we can study them before they are brainwashed into keywordize.

Given their lack of typing skill, the article briefly mentions that voice search, like that used for mobile search, offers an interface opportunity for kids.

At the end one of the kids interviewed suggests, “I think there should be a program where Google asks kids questions about what they’re searching for,” he said, “like a Google robot.”

I look forward to reading the paper on the study. Hopefully it will contain the concrete solutions to improve the search experience for kids that they foreshadow in their earlier work.


  1. I also disagree with Au's reply... it sounds like Google isn't thinking about the problem.

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