Insights into Multimedia Search User Behavior, Intent, and Consumption

At Yahoo! Search, we’re always trying to learn more about what people are looking for and what they might want that they’re not even thinking to look for yet. We take this idea a step further – we’re always working on how we can do better at delighting and entertaining searchers with products built around their needs. One of the ways we do this is through user experience research.

In August and September 2010, we conducted exploratory studies at our Bangalore and Taiwan usability labs to help us better understand people’s behaviors, intentions, and consumption of multimedia search from any provider.

We wanted to answer some key questions about multimedia search: How do people search for multimedia online? How do people consume the image or video results that they get through multimedia search? And what do people like or dislike about the experience of searching for videos and images online?

User experience research at Yahoo! is accomplished primarily through direct observation of use situations – either in the lab or in natural environments like people’s homes, offices or internet cafes. Our labs are fully equipped, so design researchers can conduct lab based studies like user interviews, usability tests, and focus groups.

In the multimedia user research, we learned some interesting insights:

  • Though it is difficult to pinpoint a ‘trend’ in image search topics, we found that searches for movies and celebrities emerged as popular topics across the countries where we conducted the research. (India and Taiwan).
  • In India, we found that visual thumbnails are a key ‘hook’ in image search. Other information like resolution and URL are secondary influencers that people might look at, but only after the image thumbnail.

During the research we also got a lot of feedback about the new Facebook integration’ feature that we launched recently. This feature allows users to search for albums that friends and family have posted on Facebook, through Yahoo! image search. A lean back “theater mode” experience enables users to enjoy the high quality images. To use this feature, users need to link up their Yahoo user ID and Facebook ID as a onetime process. To see and use this feature, type a search query on Yahoo! Image Search, then scroll to the end of the image results page. Currently this feature is available through
In the exploratory study we did in Bangalore, most participants reacted positively and enthusiastically about integrating Facebook to image search:

  • Users liked being able to view an entire ‘album’ versus individual pictures related to a search topic. They told us that it was more holistic and saved them the time spent to search or do multiple searches in order to create the ‘whole picture.’
  • Users felt that Facebook image integration adds a familiar face and contact point to image search results, making the experience more personally relevant and interactive.
  • Most users preferred to see all search results on a single long page and scroll rather than go from page to page. People say it’s more helpful to display all the images on the same page so they can quickly get to the things they’re interested in on the page, without needing many refinements to their searches.

In the exploratory study in Taiwan, our study participants felt that it was interesting to find Facebook photo albums from their friends, but some users asked questions about privacy.

We would love to hear from you if you use multimedia search, such as Yahoo! Image Search or Yahoo! video search. If you have some feedback on what you liked or disliked about your experience searching for  images or videos, please share them with us using the ‘Comments’ option below.

We are also constantly looking for participants in our user studies. If you would like to influence the Yahoo! user experience by sharing your opinions and feedback, sign up to participate in user studies based in India or the U.S.

Devika Ganapathy
User Experience Researcher – Yahoo! India Insights

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