Does age matter when searching?

Young people’s search behaviour *

The seven behaviours below show the different types of behaviour of young searchers:

Age seems to play a large factor in the searcher’s use of advanced search features. Children, compared to adolescents, know less advanced search features whereas computer literate adults are more likely to know more advanced searches than younger computer literate users.
‘…limited knowledge of search tools, and display unplanned search paths, as they are unable to verbalize their search process when asked and often have varied approaches to solve a single task.’
Links will be shared on social media because social searcher’s use social networks to communicate with peers.
These searchers are focused on a specific topic of interest. So there is a suggestion that young searchers know what they want and this thing [topic] is all they want to specifically find.
Rules influence any search. Rule-bound searchers are also likely to verbalise their search process. Trust, as an example of a rule, means that searchers are more likely to revisit a specific website many times because the searcher feels they can trust a website.
Pictures and videos are more likely to be used to find information. Visual searchers are also likely to be influenced by other people, for instance, siblings or peers.
Searching or computer use is not chosen as an activity. Excitement towards web searching or internet use is uncommon.

*Adapted from (Foss et al 2013:175) a study which shows search behaviour. It is, however, worth noting that this study is very small and non-representative of every young person but the study does give good insight into the affect of age when searching. There is also a suggestion that young searchers are less likely than adults to get distracted. This is important to know because user journeys of young people could be much shorter.

This study is particularly interesting if you are designing a website for a young target group or you have a young person in your user journey.

How to create better web technology

User behaviour shows that there are different types of searchers so it is clear that web creators need to cater for a range of people. How? Mix the site up. Having photos and videos, for example, will cater for visual searchers whereas utilising social media shares helps social searchers to share their search experience. This does not just stop at the user because Twitter shares help spread a brand which can also influence trust and brand authority. Technology co-facilitates one another.

Photo of social media logos.

Photo of social media logos. Source: Gstatic

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  1. Foss, E. Druin, A. Yip, J. Ford, W. Golub, E. and Hutchinson, H. (2013) Adolescent Search Roles. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 64(1) pp. 173 — 189

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