August 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Consumers rank voice-based mobile search over text-based search

Voice-enabled mobile search may prove to be more popular with consumers than text-based mobile search, according to a study from Usable Products Co.

Voice-enabled mobile search may prove to be more popular with consumers than text-based mobile search, according to a new study from Usable Products Co., a design and market research firm.

Although study participants initially predicted voice search would be the most difficult to use, they gave it higher ratings than text search after an hour of usage, says Scott Weiss, president. “We were surprised that participants enjoyed voice search, and how much more they liked it than searching via phone keypad,” he says.

Researchers also were surprised that 79% of participants favored advertising-supported mobile search, and that 37% felt that banner ads actually enhanced the mobile search user experience, Weiss says. Paid and sponsored text-based ads proved the most detrimental to user experience.

The study also found that mobile search still has room for improvement. While participants averaged an 88% success rate in submitting queries, only 53% found relevant results, Weiss says. Participants who found what they were looking for averaged 143 seconds to submit queries and find answers, he says.

For the study, 80 participants evaluated four mobile search solutions: InfoSpace WAP, JumpTap Java (Alltel Access Search), Nuance Voice Control, and Yahoo Go. Participants each used a single mobile search product to check a horoscope, weather, a stock quote, a sports score and to find a restaurant and ring tone. Success, time to compete, and user perceptions were tracked. Usable Products conducted 20 one-hour usability interviews for each search product.

The study-“Mobile Search User Experience Benchmark”-can be ordered at the company web site, UsableProducts.com.

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