Google Instant Search

Image representing Google Search as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

Google have been teasing a big new announcement for a few days now. They had the dynamic doodle with coloured balls, then the following day they teased instant search further by introducing another doodle which started off gray, but coloured in each letter of the logo as you typed.

Later on Wednesday they launched instant search, and on paper it looks like a very cool and interesting innovation in search, and perhaps the logical next step. On first impressions, I’m not entirely convinced. While they say it definitely improves your search time and while that is true to a point, to me it seems very distracting to be shown all of the results as you’re typing as it takes your mind off the original text you were planning to input. It also must be using a lot of extra server power to compute and send these results in real time and I don’t know whether if the benefits are worth the effort for Google.

I also think that the service seems a bit buggy at the moment and there may be a few questionable design choices. When you visit the Google homepage now, you still have the same logo (albeit considerably larger), the same search box, and the same two buttons underneath it. The problem is, the search button is useless now as the results load before you can even think to click it. If you click on the I’m feeling lucky button now, you get taken to the Google Doodles history page. This seems like a kind of last minute addition as something else to use the old button for.

Once you settle on your desired search term and can see your results, you still end up with a drop down box of possibly related searches. While this may prove useful I just find it so fiddly and not really as streamlined as it could be. You also have the ability to perform an I’m feeling lucky operation when you hover over the right side of each. This is where the function has gone, and it seems to have taken a back seat in this new design.

This box also gets in the way of seeing the results further down the page which to me isn’t what I want. You can remove it with an enter press, but it feels like a hassle even though you’re still only pressing enter once just like before. Somehow it doesn’t feel as quick as it used to be, but maybe it’s just a question of getting used to the change.

The one other bug I found with the new search is that when you delete your text from the box, the search page remains but becomes mostly blank. I think it would have been a nice touch to take you back to the homepage if you empty the box completely. When I just tried this, the page even has scollbars to go quite a long way down an empty white page. This looks quite unfinished and shoddy by Google’s standards. It’s not a major problem that breaks the experience, but still, I wish it was a bit more polished before they released it to the world.

The buttons still exist on the instant search page either for aesthetics, or for purpose if non-instant search shares the same page. However, from what I’ve seen, the pages do look different. When I disabled instant, the logo became smaller and the search box narrower which would indicate that you are redirected based on your browser compatibility or preferences. This seemingly shows that the keeping of the buttons is purely a style and tradition based decision rather than for a purpose.

If this is the case, I’d like to see the buttons gone to help to further differentiate instant from traditional search and to give a more minimal look. Especially for people who use a custom background, who will value clean space more than most. Hopefully Google will take steps to make the experience as smooth and simple as possible. I don’t think it’s quite there yet but it just needs a little bit of fine tuning and it’ll be perfect.