Submitted by Duion on
The overuse of search bars is a good example of the dumbing down of humanity. It seems people nowadays become more and more incompetent at operating computers and the internet. Instead of using their brain to type in a website into the address bar (not the search bar) and then using their brain to navigate through the menus to find what they are seeking, they seem to now just use the search bar for everything.
Looking at my websites search bar log inspired me to write this blog post. The use of search bars not only shows how stupid humans become, it is also probably one of the greatest accelerators that makes humans more stupid. So what do people enter into search bars? Well I have no idea in general, but I have a log file that shows me the latest entries that have been entered into the search bar, until the log becomes too big and the oldest entries are deleted. So even though I have only a very small representation of a very small part of internet customers, it is most likely already enough to figure out the big picture, considering the stupidity of things entered into the search bar.
What do people enter into my search bar? Well most people come for my textures and texture photos and stuff and what do they enter into the search bar? Well things like "textures" or generic terms like "road" these and similar terms already cover the majority of things entered, sometimes the search terms are in another weird language, even though the website is in english and it should be obvious that this will return in even less useful results. The irony here is, that the textures and other art content are already sorted in one of the best ways possible and will be presented in one of the best and efficient ways possible to the customer, IF he manages to press the mysterious link called "textures" that is visible on ANY sub page of the art section at all times, sadly many users never manage to do this.
I even wrote right on the start page in text how to use the art section and what button to press and in case people are not that good at reading I made an arrow pointing to the buttons in the sub menu, that is like I said always visible and the main categories are always expanded, they can never get lost. So if that person searching for "textures" would just click on the link in the sub menu called "textures" he will immediately shown ALL the textures that are available on my website and if he will click on the sub menu for examples on "asphalt" that will open after he clicked on textures, he will be shown all the asphalt textures perfectly sorted for him. The search bar can impossibly do a better job on it, since it will not create such a nice preview page, well I could spend much work on improving the search results display, but why, the art menu system already does the job perfectly. I admit the part with "road" textures being in "asphalt" is a bit confusing, but I spend many hours on coming up with a good sorting method for the textures and I uncovered that roads are obviously made of asphalt, but asphalt can also be on grounds that are not roads. If I put something in "road" category it will be images of full roads, also roads that are not made of asphalt, but lets not get into detail too much about that here, it is just an example that everything is already well thought through on my website.
The other irony is, that typing things into the search bar actually requires more effort than clicking on the menu link. Clicking on the menu link just requires, well clicking on it, you move your mouse a bit, then do a mouseclick, one of the most simple things ever. Using the search bar however is much more complicated, you need to as well move your mouse to the search bar, click on it, so you can enter something, then move your hands physically aways from the mouse, launch your brain to imagine a search term that might bring you what you want, then type with your hands it into the search bar, press enter, then move one hand to the mouse again, move the mouse and your eyes through the search results, then still using your brain to figure out which entry could be what you wanted, then click on some entries, just to see that in most cases it is not what you wanted and until here, most people have already given up and left the website.
As a web designer I'm faced with a serious challenge here, I mean if people have become too stupid to read text or even click on menu entries and or links that are obviously color coded to make them stick out so that it is totally obvious which is which, I don't really know what to improve anymore. Sure the art/main page is a bit of a mess, originally I wanted it to be that it will immediately display the results, but the problem there was, that I would not have space to enter all the descriptions like what there is on the site, what license the images are, how to use them, how to contribute etc. I tried several different designs, for example I could have made a footer or another menu bar on the right, but those solutions are all kind of ugly, especially as they are not needed for the other categories and for example the art section results page can be very long, so scrolling to the bottom is a long way to go sometimes, so I chose not to put anything there. The most elegant solution was adding another page on top of the art content results, but this will make the results page ugly and you either have not enough space for your text and other stuff, or you are blocking too much of the art section results all the time. My current idea is to remove a lot of the text and add more images and more obvious links, so it will look more flashy so people may click on it more likely.
Back to the search bar problems, I already thought about removing the search bar, but this also creates other issues, since the search bar is very good when searching for content or info that is not already perfectly sorted. For example each texture has the possibility to have alternative keywords entered, so it can be found by search engines or found through my search bar, but this is more meant as an exception, since I cannot write a perfect description for 5000 images, that would take an extreme amount of time and even if I managed to do that, the practical advantage would be very small, if not nonexistent at all. It is just meant to search for something that cannot already be found through the sites main and submenu sorting system, which is already very good.
Another problem is the user login bar, since people confuse it with the search bar sometimes, though not that often, what happens more often though is that people try to login there, I may have to remove the user login bar at some point, since even though my website was initially meant as a multi user website, there have only been occasionally other users. The reason I did not remove it yet, is because it is convenient for me and it is also tied to a convenient user menu on the "other side" if logged in.
Back to the search bar, well this is only the issue on my site meaning my website, but this is only the minor issue, the bigger issue is, that most visitors to my website come well through the search bar from some search engine, which in most cases is the obvious monopolist in that area. From the people coming from a search engine most click the link or menu buttons on the website they were searching for, but only if the search result gave them what they wanted, if not, which is most cases, they just leave. Sometimes if people have not gotten what they wanted through their search engine, instead of manually navigating the website, they immediately enter their search terms again in my search bar and if not given what they wanted which is in most cases, they leave immediately. When people come from search engines to my websites, they usually do not reveal what people searched for to me, but I can often assume, as it is usually not that complex, as already described with my "textures" example.
My conclusion in this matter is, that the big majority of people browsing the internet do not seem to use anything else than the search bar most of the time. The filter they see the internet through is their search engine and even when clicking on a search result arriving at another website, they usually never navigate the website itself out of curiosity what else there might be, instead they either leave or use the websites internal search engine and then leave, but most websites don't have a search bar or a search bar that is shit, so most people probably leave immediately. The reasons most websites don't have a search bar is because a search bar is a luxury, it requires a lot of processing power and programming knowledge to make it functioning well, so most websites don't have it or simply refer to a major external search engine.
The weirdest fact here probably is, that even though most normal websites cannot afford to have a proper search bar, the major tech companies running search engines, somehow can afford having not only the most sophisticated search engines, but also search engines that search the entire internet everytime someone wants to search something on a small website, they cannot only afford that, they can afford that people do that nonstop. Imagine you have a website and instead of people using your menu buttons and hotlinks to navigate your website they would use the search bar for everything, so everything they want something, they use a search engine that scans the ENTIRE website EVERYTIME for everything, just to give people what a simple hyperlink could have given them. If every visitor of your website would do that instead of using the buttons or read the texts on your website your traffic and processing power costs would probably explode.
Most people still probably cannot imagine how insane the overuse of the search bar is, let me give you an analogy:
Imagine you search for something in a friends house, lets say a cup, where do you go to find a cup? Well the first thing you try if you are someway sane, is to go to the kitchen, go to the cupboard, open it and see if there are cups in the cupboard and in most cases you will succeed. Of course some people will do things slightly different, so you may have to search other cabinets in the kitchen or maybe in the living room, but using your common sense you can usually nail the issue down very quickly.
Now imagine using a search engine for finding your cup, that search engine would go through every cabinet in every room of the house everytime, scan it, compare every item found with a database and give you the result. Even if the search engine starts in the kitchen in the cupboard where the cups are, they usually also still search the rest of the house, since there could be more cups hidden in other cabinets.
Now imagine every time you search for a cup in your friends house, you not only use a search engine to scan the entire apartment of your friend, but also the entire house, the entire neighbourhood, the entire city, the entire country, the entire earth every time just to find a cup in your friends house and exactly this is what many people do on the internet. Just because people are lazy to use their own brain, they employ a huge army of server farms, which are somehow paid for even though everyone can use them for free in infinite amounts to infinite extends. Luckily there are thousands of scientists spending billions of dollars to make this process very effective and reduce the costs of it by a lot, but it is simply a high tech high cost solution so that people no longer have to use their brains.
First I hesitated to write this blog post, since calling your visitors idiots may be disadvantageous, just maybe, but then I figured, hey chances are high they will never read it, since they cannot navigate the website through menu buttons or read texts, so I will be pretty safe, even though it will on the front page for a while. This example also shows the power of search engines, since if search engine delete something out of their search results, it will be inaccessible to most people immediately, since they cannot do anything else than type things into the search bar. It really makes me wonder how the idiots still manage to type texts into the search bar, even though they usually cannot read texts and clicking buttons is theoretically easier, but then I remembered how they try to introduce the voice assistants or voice searches in the browser and thinking about the privacy nightmares this brings people using these must be one of the biggest kinds of idiots in existence, especially considering using keyboard and mouse to navigate the internet is most likely faster and more efficient anyway.
Search engines are hyped as one of the biggest inventions of the internet, but I don't really see them as that good, I could probably could come up with a better solution in one afternoon. Search engines or search bars to me are more like a backup system, if you don't know any better or you are lazy, but even then they are not reliable, since they usually censor aka "using intelligent algorithms" to show you, what they think you want to see, or they think you are allowed to see. Like my previous example how search engines can make things vanish from the internet for most people, even though they are not making anything vanish for real, but it will appear to for people, since they can only see what the search engine shows them, they no longer have the ability to think and navigate the internet for themselves.
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