12 December 2016
Google: The Answer To Life, The Universe, And Everything Else
In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings built Deep Thought — a super computer — and asked it what the answer to life, the universe and everything was. It has to be a simple answer. And after seven and a half million years, the answer was revealed.
‘Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
‘The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy’, Douglas Adams
When asked about the meaning of the answer, the computer just told them it was clear if you know what the question is.
When looking for answers on the web we do that same thing, we ask a computer for a simple answer to a question me may even not know. And it creates a bias on how we access information.
For this example I will use an example based on design but it is applicable for a wide range of topics.
How much does a website cost?
Imagine you are the owner of a small company, and want to build a website for your business.
You do not want to be ripped off, so you start making some searches using Google trying to know something about a topic you have no previous knowledge.
You visit google and search cost website.
As in the example from the books by Douglas Adams, there is not even a question here. But Google is your friend and it gives you an answer right away. A lot of articles containing aphorisms like a website costs $xxx or with titles like How Much Does a Website Cost pop up on the first results page.
And it is useless. Those articles are giving a simple answer to a question you did not even have, or a question that is incomplete. There will be a ton of options on each link, from you can have your website done completely free to a website will cost you thousands of dollars. And adding generic words like cost professional website will not help.
Why is it difficult to find a simple answer?
There is a lot of different kind of websites, ones more technically challenging than others. If you want a store to sell directly from your website, it can be a small shop with a few items or something as big and complex as Amazon. Your website should be accessible from any device, or by disabled people. You can show images and video, have conversational bots to talk to users or give them the opportunity to send feedback.
So your initial question leads you to other questions. What would my clients want to find on my website? How can it attract new clients? Will it have an impact on my sales?
When dealing with a good professional, she can guide you through all your doubts to address the most important questions Why do you think you need a website? and What are you trying to achieve with it?
Having that information a professional can explain what your options are, and how much it will cost you. And help you outline a plan to achieve your goals.
What does it have to do with Google?
Following the example I used before, options for a small business can go from a Facebook page to a corporate website including an order tracking tool for clients. But reading on the pros and cons of each option to reach a decision is hard work and requires a lot of information. And that is something Google can not provide.
If you have clear goals, or already decided which kind of website you want, you can ask Google What information are people usually looking for on a restaurant website? or How much does a professional blog writer cost? But those are just details when you already have a solid plan in order to execute it.
Searching Google as a first step on a decision is a huge mistake. And it does not matter if it is a business decision, if you want to lose weight or if you are looking for a career change.
Google is always trying to simplify everything. A long article on the different communication strategies for small businesses on social media is much less likely to be on the first page results than a short post giving a direct answer, even if it is a wrong one.
Google will always prefer The only way over Many ways and the pros and cons of each one, but the second is obviously much more useful. And the first one is misleading at best, because most of the time is just someone trying to sell you something, or just rip you off.