You might have noticed that google is rolling out its instant search feature. Although the hype is over
I am writing here and now my thoughts about this old news enhanced with some background information gained through jetwick. First, a screenshot of google instant in action:
(Click to Zoom)
This search is called ‘search before you type’ – it will trigger a search from the first suggestion it gave to you and so, it can guess your intent of the query and delivering matching results faster. At least this is what google hopes. In the example google will get wikipedia from the suggestion and trigger a ‘wikipedia’ search instantaneous.
‘Search as you type’ or ‘incremental search’ is an old idea and not really useful for web content, I think. Even google implemented this some months ago for other products – that idea also contains a bit of the new ‘search before you type’ feature.
Now one might think that the ‘search before you type’ is what google-developers can be proud of, but google-developers are not the first guys who ‘invented’ this, there were/are nearly equal examples from Yahoo in 2006 (!):
Watch it in fullscreen, please :-)
or via Bing API from Long Zheng:
(And there is a video of the officials from Bing too, showcasting its ‘new’ stuff)
The main difference is now that only the google-leads takes the risk to deploy this feature to its main site in all countries! BTW I’m sure: if it does not work as expected for the users or SEOs, google will remove it (or un-default it) after a certain time interval.
But maybe this big change is not so big as google hopes and not so many users will use this feature (you can turn it off) or weren’t affected because they are already using scroogle or their browser’s searchbox. My guess is that ‘google instant’ was and is a really nice and brave marketing campaign: a lot of news appeared about this feature in the last week. Even ‘old school’ newspapers like zeit.de or our local one had a whole site for it (and humph, yes, I am making indirectly advertising too for them now :-/). So without any additional dollars google polished its image a bit after being wrinkled in the last weeks (Network neutrality, street view here and there in Germany, …).
My personal experiences
The performance of google’s implementation is really great. No, only one word is necessary: fantastic! I know, that must be that hardest part of the whole thing and that’s why they roll it out partially.
BUT: I don’t like to be interrupted while typing. And displaying new results again and again are definitely an interruption. It’s a nice way to advertise similar sounding terms or for people wasting their time with browsing or searching for things. For me this means that I’ll see the stackoverflow site after 6 characters instead of 13 + ENTER. For me this is not a big benefit – I’m fast at typing – and it doesn’t weight out the disruption (ok, I’m using scroogle in my firefox searchbox, but thats another topic). So, I prefer the version of Long Zheng a lot, where you have to select the suggestions to update the results. With this version you would type 6 characters and select the suggestion – a very useful feature which I am missing at google! I like it that much that I implemented it for jetwick.
Another design issue with google’s instant search feature is the following. To see all results – including the first – the results have to be displayed below the suggestions. Compare this to the normal search where the suggestions overlap the first result(s). The problem now is that the number of suggestions will vary – depending on the query and as a consequence the results are moving up and down. The Yahoo and Long Zheng’s solution mentioned above, solved this easily: they put the search box on the left and the results on the right. I’m not sure if this is the best solution because the search terms sometimes can be lengthy, but its better than google solution.
At the end I am curious about three things:
- How yahoo/bing, ask.com and all of google’s competitors will follow … ok, if they want follow at all ;-)
- The difference of google’s electricity bill (or in tons of CO2)
- The main ‘abc’ companies. Ah, okay someone already did this job ;-)
Chrome will implement the same feature.