Cabel Maxfield Sasser notes how advertisements in Japan display search boxes with recommended search terms, as opposed to URLs. It certainly feels more user-friendly (and natural) to enter real words into one box (the search box) than to type something as geeky as a URL in another box (the URL field), and the author even speculates that future versions of Safari may transition to displaying a more prominent Google field and a less prominent URL field.
This has got me thinking. These are my closely related, highly anecdotal observations on URL entry vs. searching:
- Some people (especially Firefox users) enter everything, even URLs, in the Google box. (By default, a new Firefox window has focus on the Google box.) These users will have to click again at the Google-displayed URL, but they don't seem to mind.
- I sometimes catch myself mistakenly using the URL field instead of the Google field, hinting that search may be taking over from URL entry in my use as well.
- Firefox actually accommodates (perhaps encourages) this previous behavior: entering expressions in the URL box yields Google search results or top hits. Other browsers simply display the predictable error messages caused by such attempts at connecting to malformed URLs.
- I hardly ever use the bookmarks menu for opening a page, relying on the autocomplete feature of the URL field instead. That is, if I add something to my bookmarks, I will navigate to it later by starting to type some words from its URL (if meaningful), rather than choosing it from the menu.
- But then I hardly ever add any bookmarks either. If I want to bookmark a page for later retrieval, I don't have to do anything: it will be automatically added to the History list, and thus it will be available for autocomplete, too.
- In Leopard, Safari's history items and cached pages are indexed by Spotlight, even enabling users to find visited pages by searching for words in their contents.
I think web pages are verbal, and the most natural way of relating to them is by typing text.