Accoona’s ‘Talking Search Bar’

April 21, 2006

Topics: Usability.

A few weeks ago, I wrote on the question "Does Accoona Suck". My criticisms were two-fold: first, whether Accoona provided a unique value as a search engine, and second, whether they utilized underhanded marketing techniques to build their reputation.

On the basis of those two points, I was very unimpressed. Recently, Accoona released an interesting new toolbar, as pointed out by Loren Baker. As Loren says, the toolbar, functionally speaking, is fantastic. It’s not perfect; but I was quite impressed with the way it managed to handle numbers.

I tested it with a year incorporated into text, and it successfully expressed that year correctly. It even distinguished between the speaking pattern for a year like 1985 (nineteen-eighty-five) and 2005 (two thousand five). I checked a zip code – also correct. I tried a phone number expressed with dot separators – no problem. It didn’t manage a PO Box number quite right, and had a little trouble with the fraction 1/2 – pronouncing it "one-second". However, fractions which do not deviate from the normal number speaking system were handled more successfully.

On the whole, the voice is pleasant and clear. I would be perfectly willing, if necessary, to listen to a longer text with the tool.

But the marketing strategies that Accoona has demonstrated with this project still leave me frustrated. They have not disclosed everything that I felt necessary in order to install the toolbar – namely, that I would need to install additional software after the toolbar and that I would need to register for a 60 day free trial in order to use the product. It’s a minor issue; but I would have appreciated this information in advance.

For your information, the toolbar costs Euro 21.49 – since that information is also obscured from the Accoona marketing information.

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