Information is a very useful thing. It can also allow us to do many things. Your personal details, for example, can help you to open a bank account or to prove who you are. Everything you can find online is some form of information.

This lesson will help you to use the internet to find out information. It will also show you how to find movies, music, photos and more. So, the next time you need to know something you can feel ready to go online and find what you need.

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Search online with ease.
  • Know which online search terms are more effective.
  • Find entertaining content like images, movies and music online.

Read time

10 mins

How the internet can help to find information

The internet (also known as 'the web') connects devices across the world together. This helps people to connect and find what they need. It can come through wires or can operate wirelessly over shorter distances.

You can use the web to find a whole world of information. In fact, with the ability to connect with devices across the globe, you can use the internet to find out most of the information you'll ever need to know.

To connect to the web, you use something known as a 'web browser'. In the next sections, we'll explain what this is and how to choose the right one for you.

What is a browser?

To use the internet, you would use a browser. Browsers work like a window to the internet. You can use it to connect to different websites where the information is held. To go to a particular website, you need to enter something called a 'web address' which, much like an address, tells the browser the location of where you are wanting to go online.

You can also search for information without knowing the address of the site you're looking for. For example, you might want to find the website of a shop that sells rucksacks, but you might not know the address or the name of the store you want to buy from. In this case you would enter the word 'rucksacks' into something called a 'search engine' to find what you need. We will explain more about search engines shortly, but first, let's take a look at some of the most popular browsers to help you choose.

 

Popular browsers:

  • The most popular browser is 'Google Chrome'. It can be used on any kind of device
  • The second most popular is 'Safari'. It is worth noting that you are only able to use Safari if you use a device created by Apple
  • 'Microsoft Edge' comes in third place and is Microsoft's latest browser. It replaces their original which you might know as 'Internet Explorer'
  • Another to consider is 'Firefox'. Which is delivered by the not-for-profit Mozilla

 

Before you choose

Make sure you read about each company and make your own choice into what is best for your needs. Just because something is popular, does not mean it is right for you. Make sure your browser works in a way that is best for how you want to use the internet.

What is a search engine?

As we said earlier, you can use a 'search engine' to search without knowing the address. These do the hard work for you by searching through all the information available online and displaying you what it thinks you need. These will be the best results based on the words you enter.

The words you enter to search are often called 'search terms' and thinking about the terms you use carefully can bring you better and more specific results. We'll show you some of the ways to get more specific results in our section on creating better searches, but let's have a look at some of the most popular search engines you can use.

 

Popular search engines:

There are plenty of search engines out there, and you aren't limited to using just one. You can use different engines for different things, and it really is a personal choice.

In the UK, the top search engines are Google with 88% of people using it to explore the internet. Bing comes next with 9% of UK users & Yahoo is used by only 2%.

There are also browsers which might not be as popular but have other advantages. Like Ecosia, which plants trees based on the number of searches.

Unlike browsers, you don't need to download search engines. They are a website that you access through a browser.

Creating better searches

In our example earlier, we explained how you can search on the internet by entering search terms like 'rucksack' to find results. Search terms can be one word like this. You can also add more things to your searches to help the search engine you are using to give you better results first time.

Adding details to your search is the first thing you can do. So, instead of 'rucksacks' you could search for 'waterproof rucksacks' or 'blue rucksacks', depending on what it is you are looking for.

You can also stop the search engine from showing you certain results. You can do this by placing a '-' in front of anything you don't want to see. So, say you wanted to see rucksacks, but not ones by a certain brand you could type 'rucksack -company name' instead.

If you are getting a lot of results for a search and want to see results for the exact term or phrase you have entered, you can put your search terms in quotations. So, for example, you might write 'Cafés “Rotherham”' so your results show you only results for cafés if they contain the location name “Rotherham” too.

The results of your searches can be very broad, so using these tips can really help to get where you want to. There's also lots of different ways the information can be presented online.

 

Some of the types of information you'll find are:

  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • News
  • Videos
  • Forums
  • Maps
  • Tutorials
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Media
  • Games
  • Books
  • Music

 

Learning online

The internet is also a good place to learn. With so much available online and so many ways it can be accessed, that makes the internet a brilliant place to learn (like you are now!)

Whether you like to learn by watching videos, listening or reading, you can use all these ways of learning online from the comfort of your home.

You might already know lots of ways of accessing information, but there are some other common ways used online that might be new to you. Like:

 

Using chat functions

These are now on a lot of websites. Especially sites where you can buy goods and services, as they allow you to speak with the company quickly and with little effort. You can ask questions and resolve issues quicker than you might be able to through phone calls or email.

If a website has a chat function, it will usually appear at the bottom left or right of the screen, but it can be anywhere on the site. The easiest way to find it is by looking for the word 'chat' or phrases like 'chat with us'.

If you click on this, you will likely see a chat box appear where you can type messages to the shop and receive messages from their employees. This chat is a private one between you and the person you are chatting to, so you don't need to worry about others seeing what you are sending.

Using FAQs

Sometimes you can find the answer to your questions without having to speak to anyone. Companies often keep track the types of questions they get through their conversations with customers and use them to make a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Say you want to know what the usual delivery times are for a shop. There may be a list of FAQs on their site with the question 'What are our delivery times?' There the shop will have the answer. For example, 'Our typical delivery times are 3-5 days'. This means you won't have to contact them to find out this answer. This saves you and the company time and effort.

 

Using forums and tutorials

If your question is more difficult to answer, tutorials and forums might be a better place to look.

Tutorials can take many forms. They are usually used to explain something through either words or video. Tutorials will usually take you through a process step-by-step, like how to set up a phone.

Forums are slightly different from this. You can still use them to learn, but instead of hearing from a company or an expert, you use them to speak to a community of people about a topic. This is useful if you want to hear lots of different opinions on a topic. This may mean the information can be wrong. So you need to decide for yourself which opinions you trust.

As an example, you might join a parenting forum. On the forum, you will likely hear from lots of other parents about some of the ways they look after their children. Some comments you may find helpful. Others you may choose to ignore. Forums are good to gain a sense of community and connect with people who have similar experiences. This doesn't mean all the tips and experiences will work for you.

 

Accessing entertaining content

You can find lots of entertainment online. From films, to music, from books to games. Most of the things you love offline will be available in some form on the web. Let's take a look at some of the most popular ways you can access the content you love online.

 

Popular ways to access your content:

  • Images and pictures – When you search, you can usually press a button to make sure the results you see are just images. You can find this button at the top of the page. This is a helpful way to find any images you might need. Say you want an image of a dog; you can click to see only images. This will stop you seeing any other kinds of content, like articles about dogs, options to buy dogs etc. You can also use sites like Pinterest or stock image sites to find images
  • Videos - The main place you can watch videos online is YouTube. Though lots of social media sites also allow you to share and view videos. There are also sites similar to YouTube like Vimeo
  • Movies – If you like watching movies, there are lots of trustworthy sites you can use to watch your favourite films. Some are free to use but require you to purchase or rent the movies for a fee. Others charge a subscription fee, but then are free to use. Some do a combination of both. The most commonly used applications/websites are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and you can also pay to watch movies on YouTube too
  • TV – much like movies, you can watch your favourite TV shows online. The sites we listed above also offer TV shows too. There are also a few other popular services for TV and movie watching in the UK, like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and Now TV. When you're watching TV offline, you might switch between channels because they offer different shows. The same can be said for these online services. Each site offers a different selection of films and TV shows, so you should choose the ones that best suit you
  • Games – If you enjoy playing games, alone or with friends and family, then there's a whole world of online gaming for you. One place you can get games is by using your device's app (application) store. Here you can find many free and paid for games. These types of games are often free by showing you advertisements. This is how the company makes money to create games
  • Books – You can read books on your main devices. You can also buy an e-reader (which is a device used only for reading books online). There are a few main places you can go to for books online, such as the Amazon Kindle store. There are also services like Audible which allow you to pay a fee to access a library of audio books
  • Music – The ways you can pay for or access music for free online are similar to films and tv. You can either pay for a song or an album, or you can pay for a subscription. Music subscriptions offer more than film and TV ones do. This means you can get all the music you could want from one provider. So, there's no real need to utilise more than one service. The choice between the services is entirely dependent on which one you like most and which way of paying works for you. A few of the most popular music streaming services include Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon music and Deezer. You can compare their advantages and disadvantages here

 

Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now know how to search for what you need online. We suggest you continue your learning with the next lesson in 'Staying Safe Online' – 'Saving and accessing documents'. This lesson will give you an understanding of how to manage your files and folders. It will also show you how you can store and access your files online.

 

Up next for you:

Next module: Saving and accessing documents

Back to: Understanding Online Information

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.

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