Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Understanding the Intent Behind Mobile Information Needs

(Comment left on Jarratt Brandon's blog)

Karen Church Telefonica Research, Barcelona, Spain
Barry Smyth University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Paper Link:

Church and Smyth conduct a diary based study on mobile internet usage and compare it to the non-mobile internet usage.
They defined mobile usage on a location basis where away from the home or office was "mobile." This allowed them to take into account all mobile devices.

The research team divided the entries into 6 location contexts:

Their study had 20 participants with an average age of 31 enter diary entries/descriptions for all their information needs via internet search over a month.
They reminded their participants of the study once week to enter entries.
Their methodology principle was to minimize the amount of interaction so that study participants would generate very natural data that could be analyzed.

The study generated 405 entries, of which 67% of the entries were made when mobile.
34% of the entries were in the on-the-go location context.

Their study also revealed that, in addition to Broder's classification of search

there needs to be 2 new categories

-personal information management (PIM)(personal items, tasks, scheduling)

In addition their study generated the info that mobile search engines should be able to pick up on location, time, context, user's activity.
Also a large portion of mobile searches are non-informational and principally geographical.


My spill:
This sounds like an interesting study in trying to make mobile searches more effective and sensitive to user demands based on the mobile context. The study pretty much generated what you would expect in a study like this.

Mobile devices need to be able to search for directions and have an idea your location to generate useful search information.

I think the biggest improvement in mobile searches needs to be done in making interfaces that are easier to view and navigate as well as making the infrastructure for such searches MUCH quicker. In fact many users in their study cited that a main reason why they didn't even search using a mobile device.

So I guess I'm trying to say that they're putting the cart before the horse by doing this study. Then again, I'm being too critical.

I like the idea of trying to make a device that is more aware about context. That's a major flaw in computer system in more way than one: language translation, understanding user input... That would make computers much smarter.

Although I think they did an excellent job with their methodology, I would have liked to seen more users in this kind of study to make a more accurate view of user behaviors. Future work might be to try and include searches that can more accurately identify personal information searches and tie the searchers in with scheduling programs and the like on the mobile device, or maybe interface with your own computer at home.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad somebody is thinking about this. We have a lot of neat abilities right now and with as slow as searches are they can still be far faster than a physical search. That being said you are right: there is so much more we can do.