Froogle: what’s in a name?

As web savvy, technology oriented people we often forget what it’s like to be normal. This is probably why Google have an elementary usability mistake slap-bang in the middle of their home page. The mistake I’m referring to? The tab label “Froogle”.

In a recent user study I gave 12 users a selection of tasks, one of which involved using the shopping facilities on 3 different search engines.

During this shopping task, I was amazed to find that when shown Google, many of them just didn’t realise what Froogle was. Even those who were frequent Google users. On all the other search engines, they all easily found the ‘shopping’ tab.

For some users I really pushed the issue, specifically asking what they thought Froogle was without clicking on the link. They just couldn’t guess from the label. One of them even thought it offered games.

The name Froogle is an in-joke, and it’s a complex one too. Comparison shopping > saving money > being frugal > frugal sounds like Google, so Froogle it is. A clever brand name – but too clever to present on a blank page like that. It would work well in other scenarios – like in a press advertisement with plenty of space for a tag line explaining that it’s Google’s comparison shopping service. But here, with just the label itself to do the explaining, its just not enough.

You might be wondering, what’s the big deal? If they don’t click on the tab label then the “Product search” inclusion in the search results page will reel them in instead. Well, that’s only partly true. In my study, some users did notice the inclusion, but some didn’t – they scanned right past and went direct to a supplier in the results below.

So what should Google do? By all means keep the brand name within the Froogle site, but they should ditch the label “Froogle” from the front page and go for something transparent, like “Shopping”. It’s dull and obvious for people like us who are in the know, but for normal people it’s comprehensible, and that is all that matters. More people will start using the Froogle service, and surely that is the aim of the game…