I have always thought of Google as being a search engine for everyone, that's part of the appeal. So when the development team behind a web portal for 'mature users' contacted me about the launch of a new search engine specifically designed for the older user I was a little confused.
Maybe it's my age, after all I am fast approaching the '50 plus' demographic that the Mabels development folk are targeting with AskMabel or maybe it's just that I have seen it all before. Ever since Google burst onto the search scene, redefining and dominating it, start-ups have been trying to get a slice of the search action and convince us that niche searching is where it is at. AskMabel appears to be doing just that, what with it promising a "unique take on targeted search results" and being "designed with the 50+ surfer in mind" and all. What it offers, I am assured, is something that is "tailored to the search preferences of a mature audience" although I am struggling to think what they may be, or more to the point how they might differ from what Google does.
After all, if my 80 year old mother wants to find a web site detailing the antiques fairs in her location then Google will happily look for those for her, and return them in a format she can happily understand. As long as the hits returned are relevant, what more could my mother or your mother possibly want? Well the press release promises a "level of demographic profiling" which "helps to create a seamless user experience, providing a quicker and easier route to finding relevant information online" apparently. By which I think they mean that AskMabel filters the results in order to somehow display the ones that are most relevant to older users.
Which still leaves me feeling confused. I can see the usefulness in providing a large font option (I suffer from low vision as a result of Wet Macular Degeneration myself) but a button which says 'clear search term' being promoted as adding to the user experience of the older Internet user? Isn't that just a wee bit patronizing? And as for matching and fine tuning the results of searches "directly to the topic and age" of the user, surely the most relevant result for any given search is going to be pretty much the same regardless of age? Jon Wickham, owner and founder of Mabels, says that "filtering the users search results to the topic of the search as well as the age group of the user is the first steps to a much improved internet browsing experience" and believes that it is "the way forward in attracting the quality and value content we all strive for".
To me it almost seems like a retrograde step back to the days of information portals (and if you can remember when that word was all the buzz, you are probably as old as me) with everything categorized by subject matter. Indeed, Ask Mabel allows users to find results to their search that are related to specific categories such as health, finance, retirement and mobility for example. Interestingly, they can also opt for a Google-powered search, which begs the question why not just Go Google in the first place?
Over to Jon Wickham again: "It's very important that information about issues affecting the older generation are easily and broadly accessible. There are so many fantastic web sites and information out there but we found that finding them quickly without wasting valuable time having to search all over the place wasn’t as easy as you’d think". Actually, Jon, I beg to differ as I think it's very easy, and so does my elderly Google using mother...
Do you think there's a need for an age-related search angine? Let us know by posting a comment below.