Google Voice Search Project Story


The Google Patent Search support team (the Team) is a group of customer support experts who assist Google patent researchers.  We help customers troubleshoot and format Google Patent searches.  The Google Voice Search project tested searching by voice as compared to searching by keyboard using participants using participants from the Team.  If the tests showed by searching by voice was faster, spoken searching would be recommended as a process improvement to the Team.   The following steps were taken to test searching by voice on Google.  

Step 1:    I identified the research problem

Requests for assistance from my Team members were steadily increasing, but there was no funding to increase the size of the team. Therefore, it was necessary to find a way to speed up the Team’s ability to perform searches.  If using Google Voice Search was a faster way for the Team to perform searches, it could help the Team solve its capacity problem.  

Step 2:   I listed the research questions and specified research methods 

The questions to be answered were:

  • Do Team members take longer to key a search than to speak it?
  • Do Team members create longer, more complex searches when the search is spoken rather than keyed?   Do voice searches vary from keyboard searches?   
  • Does Google Voice Search retrieve the same number and type of patents that are retrieved in a keyboard search?
  • Do the results obtained from Google Voice Search vary from one Team member to another?
  • Are some search elements easier or more difficult using voice searching?

Considering the research questions to be answered, the best research methods for the Google Voice Search Project were field study, nondirected interview, and closed-ended questionnaire.  See research methods details

Step 3:  I checked Team calendars and drew up a schedule

I estimated that the research with Team members could be carried out in approximately two weeks. 

  • First week: I planned to conduct field visits with Team members.  

    • Each Team Member would be given four research scenarios for which to formulate a search.  See the four research scenarios.  These scenarios are similar to actual customer scenarios.  For two of the scenarios, the search would be entered using Google Voice Search.  For the other two, the search would be entered by keyboard. The Team member would sort each set of search results by relevance and identify the top two most relevant patents.  

    • The Team member would copy and email the search history and two most relevant patents to me.  

  • Second week:  I planned to conduct closed-ended questionnaires, analyze test results, and create a report.

Step 4:  I recruited test participants from the target audience.

The target audience consisted of researchers who have knowledge of patent documents as they are used in legal research. Since the Team Members were pre-filtered to have this knowledge, only a brief recruitment screener was needed.   See screener questions and participant demographics.


Step 5: I created an outreach plan for contacting candidates 

The Team consisted of 15 possible candidates.  Due to the time constraints of the project, the goal was to obtain participation from approximately half of the group (seven or eight people.) I created an outreach plan to encourage participation.  The outreach steps took place during the five days of the business week prior to scheduling the research sessions. During days one through three, I contacted the candidates by in-person office visit or phone call.  During days four and five I scheduled the sessions.  See outreach plan for details.

Step 6: I planned the data collection work

The sessions were planned as in-person field studies and non-directed interviews.   A follow-up closed-ended questionnaire was planned to send to the participants by email.   The in-person field studies were meetings that lasted one hour. They took place in an office conference room.  See field study plan.  Google search history screens were examined to obtain participants’ exact searches.  See example of Google search history.  The non-directed interviews consisted of five interview questions that obtained test participants’ subjective opinions about the test.   See non-directed interview questions.  Three days after the session, the research participants were sent a closed-ended questionnaire through email. Waiting three days gave the participants time to reflect on the test experience.  This questionnaire was needed to uncover additional information not previously obtained.  See closed-ended questionnaire.