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How to fix a toilet (and other things you couldn't do without Search)

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Every year, millions come to Google to search for news and information that helps illuminate the world around them. While people often search for breaking news, the latest sports scores, or what's playing at a local movie theater, they also often look for answers on how to fix the more mundane items around them.

Recently, we noticed that “how to…” searches have increased by more than 140% since 2004, and much of that search interest is directed towards how to “fix” things—whether it’s a lightbulb, window, washing machine, or even the toilet. In fact, “How to fix…” is consistently near the top of the list of most common queries, year after year, around the world. That’s why the Google Trends team teamed up with award-winning designer Xaquín González Veira —formerly of “The Guardian”, “National Geographic” and “the New York Times”—to create our latest visual: How to fix a toilet...and other things you couldn’t do without Search.

The first data visualization shows household items people ask Google how to fix, and how those searches vary by country. For instance, in the United States, the top “how to fix" items are doors, followed by windows, toilets, washing machines and refrigerators. While in Japan, the order is:  windows, doors, washing machines, and toilets.

Check out the map of the world below, to see how it shifts:

map

Xaquin noticed some neat (and weird) patterns in the data. Searches for “how to fix a toilet” and “how to use chopsticks” follow a very similar pattern. Wonder why that is? Just check out the site. You’ll be surprised what tops the list in each country and which places need to fix the same things (washing machines in Russia and Colombia and windows in Brazil and Eritrea).

The visual also showcases data for the top searched “how to’s” around the world. The top ten are:

  1. how to tie a tie
  2. how to kiss
  3. how to get pregnant
  4. how to lose weight
  5. how to draw
  6. how to make money
  7. how to make pancakes
  8. how to write a cover letter
  9. how to make french toast
  10. how to lose belly fat
Check out the interactive guide here, to explore more of this fascinating data.
how

This data visualization is the latest in the Google News Lab’s series of collaborations with designers, working alongside the University of Miami’s Alberto Cairo to re-examine how news designers can tell stories using new types of data (including new sources of Google data)  and by experimenting with new kinds of data visualizations. You can see some more of the projects we’ve launched so far here.

We’ve loaded the top how-to’s data on our GitHub page for you to download and explore. And if you do, tell us more about you’re using the data at newslabtrends@google.com.