Google Research

Social Annotations in Web Search

  • Aditi Muralidharan
  • Zoltan Gyongyi
  • Ed H. Chi
Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '12), ACM, New York, NY, pp. 1085-1094

Abstract

We ask how to best present social annotations on search results, and attempt to find an answer through mixed-method eye-tracking and interview experiments. Current practice is anchored on the assumption that faces and names draw attention; the same presentation format is used independently of the social connection strength and the search query topic. The key findings of our experiments indicate room for improvement. First, only certain social contacts are useful sources of information, depending on the search topic. Second, faces lose their well-documented power to draw attention when rendered small as part of a social search result annotation. Third, and perhaps most surprisingly, social annotations go largely unnoticed by users in general due to selective, structured visual parsing behaviors specific to search result pages. We conclude by recommending improvements to the design and content of social annotations to make them more noticeable and useful.

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