May 4, 2005

Revealing Research

I recently came across a paper entitled, “Demographic Differences in Preferred Web Site Content.” It was presented at the September 2004 Aging by Design conference in Waltham, MA.

Using a low-tech magnet board, participants built their ideal financial services homepage inside an imaginary Web browser. Apparently men are more likely than women to add news content – not too surprising since Pew Internet Project surveys consistently show that more men than women gather news online. People under 40 are more likely than older users to add a search feature. Again, that rings true if we compare it to our question, “Do you ever use an online search engine to help you find information on the Web?” In May-June 2004, 89% of 18-29 year-old internet users said yes, compared to 79% of 50-64 year-old internet users and 67% of internet users age 65+.

But my favorite detail of the research project: After each participant arranged the pieces on the magnet board and left the room, the researchers switched on a black light to reveal invisible codes on each piece and snapped a digital photo for an efficient, accurate record of their choices!