No, this is not about a failure rate while using Google. This is about a failure rate to even find Google. Jakob Nielsen has published a startling statistic:
If you thought it’s easy to get to Google, think again. In our current round of usability research, only 76% of users who expressed a desire to run a Google search were successful. In other words, 1/4 of users who wanted to use Google couldn’t do so. (Instead, they either completely failed to get to any search engine or ended up running their query on a different search engine — usually whatever type-in field happened to be at hand.)
This study was aimed at above-average Internet users. Of four above-average Internet users, one would be stumped as to how to run a Google search.
Now, let’s review as we try to catch our collective breath.
Users are weird. I’m one of them, so I can say this. I’m sure I do things that would make a Web designer apoplectic or dyspeptic. But this statistic has me really scratching my head. And that’s Jakob’s point. Web designers, planners, executives, and technologists have so much more knowledge of their products and online in general that they are incapable of bridging the gap in their minds, and need to interact with users to see firsthand what their users are like.
However, there may be something else going on here. As Kleenex, Jacuzzi, Frisbee, Band-Aid, and Scotch Tape have learned, there is a class of words that become eponyms (or, in the parlance, proprietary eponyms). These terms have non-specific meaning, and Google may be one of these for advanced Internet users. Therefore, people may “Google” in the eponymous sense, and still use another search engine. As users, they are functioning just fine.