Last week Google unveiled Instant Previews. This gives you the ability to preview a page by clicking a magnifying glass icon next to the title.
This is a cool feature, although I’ve found that I haven’t been using it since it went live. I’m typically happy with the information that is shown on the SERP. However Google are confident that it improves the experience – saying that people who use it are 5% happier with the results. What they didn’t say is what portion of people use it. I guess they’ll be learning more about it as they roll it out.
Lessons for site search?
As with all search innovations I look to see if there is anything that we might be able to apply to our site search customers. I’ve written before about how site search and web search can learn from each other. In this case many of our site search customers have already been doing something similar. They haven’t been showing a full preview of the page – this wouldn’t make sense on a site search because most of the page is the same – but instead have been doing mouse over popups, which show a larger image and potentially some more information. Note this can be done when you mouse over an image, or can be initiated by clicking on a link.
The nice thing about this feature is it makes it easy to see the product detail of several different products. Without this feature you would need to click on the product, look at the detail, return to the search results page, then click on the next product.
Here are some examples of it in action (with links to the pages):
Lessons for web search?
So is there anything Google and the other search engines can learn from the things we’re doing with our site search customers? One thing they should try is making the preview appear when you simply mouse over a result. They almost do this. You have to click on the magnifying glass image to turn on the previews – then you only need to hover over a result to see the preview. They should experiment with getting rid of that first step. I think that would improve the usability.
Secondly I think they should look at pulling out and highlighting more of the critical information on the web page. To be fair they are already doing some of this. But for example if they know it’s a product page and they have the product information – say from a feed that the retailer has submitted to them then they could show the detail of the product in the preview.