Google became the most-used search engine with their simple interface. Simple design. Focus on the task at hand.
They tried to extend this design solution to the Video arena, and stumbled. Why?
Just think about it a little. When you do a search, you have a term in mind. It may not be the correct term, but the responses you receive will normally help you refine your term if needed.
What do you do when you want to see a video? Do you know the name of what you want to see? Only if it’s a classic and you’re already familiar with it. Otherwise, you browse, either at the video store, on your cable system, using a Netflix catalog, etc.
I went to Google Video when it first opened, to take a look at it. It used the same interface as Google Search, with disastrous results. I couldn’t find anything I was interested in, except a few I Love Lucy shows. I left, unimpressed.
Next I took a look at iTunes Music Store. It’s interface is quite complex. It took me a while to find TV shows. But once I browsed to TV shows, I was shown an interesting sampling, and could also browse all the TV shows they carry.
So what? Well, as a web designer or client, there’s an important lesson to learn. Not simply that Google can make mistakes. Rather that you need to understand how your users will interact with your page/site. Simplicity for simplicity’s sake doesn’t always work. The iTunes Music Store is complex (and may become too complex as they add more items), but its current complexity allowed me to browse and find shows I never would have thought to use as search terms.
Search and browse are different activities. Know what activities your audience will be most comfortable doing, and design for that activity.