Google makes a point of consistently pushing their products in new, and often times bold directions. It can be seen across their suite of apps and sometimes even in the advent of new apps (like the recently buried Google Wave). Google prides itself on pushing what is possible on the web, and with the growing popularity of ajax-powered sites that don't require a refresh, why shouldn't Google be on board?
Google Instant was released in early September of this year. Surely anyone who uses Google regularly noticed that from the homepage, as soon as a character is entered in the search input, the entire page changes. Haven't seen it yet? Go to www.Google.com
and just start typing in the search box - you're bound to notice the surprising 200+ pixel jump that coincides with the bubbling of an autocomplete box, as well as a whole page of results, ads and sidebar navigation.
The Google homepage is transformed without warning to the results page, starting with the first character and a few milliseconds delay.
Initial feedback on the feature was polarized
- it seemed that some loved the perception of faster results and the ability to see what was being populated, while others we're upset by the confusing transition and distracting updated results that flash every time a new character is entered.
What We Think
We appreciate that Google is always pushing the envelope and releasing new features, but we question whether the design decisions are always fully considered. Using Google Instant for the first time is jarring.
When you start to type the entire page flashes (except for the search box which still moves quite some distance) and you find yourself on the results page, but with ultimately useless results since a single character is unlikely to surface quality results. Joining the results are ads, an autocomplete box and the new Google sidebar navigation. It's a lot to take in for one keystroke.
Then with each successive character typed the majority of the page flashes bringing in updated results and new autocomplete suggestions. The problem is that each new character means a user has two sections competing for attention - updated autocomplete suggestions and a whole page of results.
, Google has been taking the approach of user choice. With their release of newer features, Google typically allows users to disable the updates. In the case of Google Instant, the option to turn it off shows up to the immediate right of the search box after you enter the first character in a search. We love that Google tries new things - it's what keeps them on top and moving forward, but what do you think?
Is Google Instant a winner or are you distracted by the constantly changing page?
We can ask some of these questions this Friday (Dec. 17) when Irene Au, Head of User Experience at Google, comes in for ZURBsoapbox.