Thursday, July 20, 2006
Like most of you, when I search the web, I want to find relevant information with a minimal amount of distraction. But because I can't see and I use a device that converts web text to speech, I'm even more in tune with the distractions that can sometimes get in the way of finding the right results. If the information I'm after is on a visually busy page, I have to sort through that page to find the text I want--an extra step that can sometimes be very time-consuming.
That's why I've been passionate about a project I'm working on at Google called Google Accessible Search. Accessible Search adds a small twist to the familiar Google search: In addition to finding the most relevant results as measured by Google's search algorithms, it further sorts results based on the simplicity of their page layouts. (Simplicity, of course, is subjective in this context.) When users search from the http://labs.google.com/accessible site, they'll receive results that are prioritized based on their usability.
In its current version, Google Accessible Search looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page. It tends to favor pages that degrade gracefully--that is, pages with few visual distractions, and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off. Google Accessible Search is built on Google Co-op's technology, which improves search results based on specialized interests.
This is still an early-stage experiment, and we hope to improve the product's quality over the next few months based on user feedback. Check it out over on our Labs page and tell us what you think.