Google Instant Previews Primed for Power Searchers

Google Instant Previews might not see a lot of action because it's barely noticeable on results pages. But Google said Instant Previews testers were 5 percent more likely to be satisfied once they used it.

Google Instant Previews, which lets users visualize results to help them decide if they want to click on them, is an interesting search technology but it might not see a lot of action because it's barely noticeable on results pages.

When users type in a query using the Google Instant predictive search technology, Instant Previews provides a snapshot of a search result, highlighting the most relevant sections in less than one-tenth of a second.

Users will click once on the magnifying glass next to the title of any search result to pop out a visual overview of the page on the right. Highlights of text with relevant query keywords are highlighted in orange in the preview.

The problem is that while Google Instant is in everyone's face the minute users begin typing their query, the Instant Previews magnifying glass is a tiny, low-key button to the right of the starred results button in search results.

With the exception of tech-savvy power users, Google may be expecting too much out average Google users to not only find the button, but use it enough to make it a valuable tool.

EWEEK raised these concerns with Jeremy Silber, tech Lead for Web Search Features at Google, who said Google tried to strike a balance between not making Instant Previews too distracting with making it easy enough for users to find.

Silber said most testers grokked the technology fast because the feature is logical and intuitive to search. He acknowledged that if users are slow to latch on to the technology, Google would alter "how it works over time."

He added that people who used Instant Previews are 5 percent more likely to be satisfied with the results they click.

"We want to give users the best possible understanding of what each Web search result looks like, what each search result is and whether that's the right result for them and do it really fast," Silber said.

Still, the tiny magnifying glass for Instant Previews strikes eWEEK as a forgettable icon, one that could go the way of Google's ill-fated SearchWiki technology.

IDC Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK he wasn't sure how the size of the magnifying glass icon will impact the overall usability. "Once people know it's there (a challenge, of course), I don't think the icon size will be a "gating factor" for the quality of the experience."

Reynolds also said the Instant Previews feature should help people on smartphones avoid search thrash when they are on the go.

"It remains to be seen what the interface would look like on Android or other mobile OS', but the graphical nature of Preview seems made for the combination of users' low tolerance for frustration and smaller real estate," he added.