Useful web considerations: Bing vs Google, YouTube and accessibility, Top 100 internet sites

By Matt Cornock

This is a very brief post about a few web related things that are worthy of note recently.

Bing is coming! Batten down the hatches, Google

I have to say I’ve been very impressed with Bing’s advertising campaign which effectively brands itself as a ‘decision engine’ rather than a search engine, but more noteworthy for me is how they’ve drawn out the point of ‘information overload’ which is oh so prevalent in modern society. Taking a look at some of the anti-Microsoft comments on the (Google-owned) YouTube videos of the adverts you might get the impression that people don’t like Bing. However, I get the impression that whilst most of us ‘web savvy’ types are happy to use Google and have trained ourselves to filter a lot of the Google Search Results Pages (SRPs) to find the stuff we want, Bing is targeting those people who are overwhelmed by seeing ‘1-10 of 304,235,000 results’ at the top of the SRP.

Combine the ‘friendly’ and very blended integration of a regularly changing theme to Bing’s site, usually based around a large photo with hot-spot information, with the simplicity of Bing’s SRP and it’s easy to see why new web users may find Bing more inviting than the once-chic Google white-space fest.

YouTube captions and a wider acceptance of accessible design

YouTube initially piloted this with a handful of high profile channels, however this giant leap to make accessibility mainstream is very much welcomed, especially now auto captions are available for all. Auto-captioning isn’t perfect, and any expectation of this is stupid. Simply making the tool available will still benefit millions (it is between 70-80% accurate, and strongly dependent on the clarity of speech).

Whilst attending a recent accessibility conference, it was obvious that until recently accessibility has been a ‘bolt-on’. However, now there is a strong band of people who design accessibly from the start. The key principles are really to allow the content to be accessed in a variety of ways (e.g. screenreading, no use of keyboard/mouse, technological inclusivity considering poor internet connections/slow computers/small screens on mobiles, language, colour independence, the list goes on). Thus making sites “perceivable, operable, understandable, robust” (WCAG 2.0). The WCAG 2.0 guidelines form the basis of accessible design, and any credible web designer or web developer should be familiar with these.

Nielsen Top 100 Web sites (from BBC News)

This fascinating summary of the web today really reveals how the internet is composed of a handful of big players, but also a significant number of equally influential and significant sites.

Using the BBC’s ‘interactive treemap visualisation’ (personally ‘puzzle’ would have been a better description), six key areas stand out: Search, Media, Retail, Social networking, Software and Reference. On closer inspection it becomes clear that the western (in particular US) focus of the Nielsen survey has significantly affected which sites are seen as more powerful. However, it’s worth any web person making sure they know all the names on that list!

Final side note: Yahoo and Bing together out-punch Google according to that data. Bear that in mind when you start dealing with Google’s recent ‘price hike’ (at least for small-fry) for AdWords due to it’s new CPC algorithm based heavily on CTR (more on that later!).

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