According to research presented at CHI 2007, users judge the relevancy of identical search results from different search engines based on the brand, with Yahoo and Google coming out on top… Participants in the study indicated that the results from Google and Yahoo were superior to identical results found through Windows Live or a generic search engine. This is in keeping with what we know about the effects of branding in three dimensional products and services. An individual’s past experiences and expectations surrounding a brand create a sense of that brand’s personality and the level of trust the brand deserves.
The article mentions that even though there are over “4000 search engines” offering similar search technologies and interfaces, users tend to gravitate towards and utilize only one or two search engines. Surprisingly, given the current predominance of Google in the market, Yahoo search results were judged to be the most relevant.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, people attribute personalities to products and services based on the appearance of that object or service and how it interacts with the user. This includes the tone of the interaction, as well as what is actually said. In their book, The Media Equation, Reeves and Nass from Stanford University showed how this effect was applicable to not only computers, but also to various media like photos, images and illustrations.
This knowledge gives us a framework with which to judge why some brands receive more trust from users than others. Both Google and Yahoo are well known internet search engines with positive reputations. Think of how much you tend to trust someone that you know well, who has a reputation for doing the right thing, versus someone you barely know, with an uncertain reputation and you get the idea.
For more on product personalities, see:
Designing Emotional Software
Emotion, Arousal, Attention and Flow on Slideshare
The Personality of Apple’s Products