Dear Search Engines

Would it kill you to assign accesskeys to your search results?

Years of computer use have left me with a mild case of repetitive stress injury, so I try to avoid using the mouse as much as possible — it’s much easier to do everything from the keyboard.

However, browsing search results via the keyboard is an absolute pain in the tuchus. There’s no way in Google, Yahoo! Search, or Windows Live Search to select a specific result, or to click the “More” or “Next” links, without going to the mouse. None.*

This exact scenario is why the W3C invented the accesskey attribute. Adding an accesskey attribute to any element (like a link) automatically gives focus to that element — just like clicking it does — whenever the user pushes the key you specified as the accesskey. So if I set accesskey=”1″, for instance, pushing “1” jumps to that link. But no major search engine uses this feature.

You can get around this with extensions like Search Keys, or with Greasemonkey wizardry, but you shouldn’t have to. One of the principles of accessible technology is that the user should be able to do everything via the keyboard; mousing is a minor pain for me, but some folks simply can’t use a mouse, which is why the W3C invented accesskeys in the first place. It would take all of 10 minutes for a search engine to incorporate them into their results page templates. So why haven’t they done it?

Maybe they have — I only checked the three engines listed above. Have you found a search engine that respects its users by providing accesskeys for search results? If so, sing its praises in the comments.

(* Well, that’s not 100% true.  You can use the Tab key to tab through the list of search results. But your average results page contains so many links that tabbing through them link by link is an incredibly inefficient way to reach a given link.)