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The Good and Bad of Google Instant Previews

Posted on 11.17.2010

Google Instant Previews, the latest of the search giant's innovations, gives the user the opportunity to see a small preview of an entire Web page before clicking through to the website, by clicking on the little magnifying glass next to the search result listing. As you might imagine, this presents some questions and possible concerns about how we design our pages. Some of us might not be the most talented Web designers in the world but can provide layer upon layer of useful information to consumers. But, if our pages don't quite catch the eye of the searcher, will they ever visit our site to begin with?

Does this mean that we all need to immediately redesign our websites? Probably not. But it does warrant investigation and keeping a close watch on our traffic coming from search engines, by examining our analytics. Testing, of course, could reveal problems and opportunities.

Below, you will find a few examples of how vastly different websites can appear to consumers when using Google Instant Previews. For this test, we chose to search one vertical - e-commerce - and one product, "women's boots." All preview images are actual size, as they appear in Google search results.

(image at left)

This page preview delivers on the search term, plain and simple.

The Good: At one quick glance, I see a sizable selection. There are tall boots, short boots, brown boots and black boots. The images are large enough that I can see details of each style. I can even see that they range from casual to formal.

The Bad: Not too much is wrong with this page. However, if you look closely you might see a coupon of sorts at top left. It might help if that were larger, to entice further investigation. The same goes for the black box at the top of the page. On the site, it rotates messages of free shipping and fast delivery.

(image below)

Payless, a discount shoe retailer, appears well-optimized for its audience.

The Good: The site looks to be attractive and does a good job of showing a little variety. Most important, the shopper can see prices without a magnifying glass - $19.99, $12.49, etc. Payless has spent years associating "bogo" (buy-one-get-one free) with their brand and it's plain to see on this preview. In short, the entire preview supports the notion of discount footwear.

The Bad: Even more discount messaging is on the site after clicking through. It would be nice to see that on the preview.

(image below)

This page is built in Flash. It also appears on the first page of my search results. In Instant Preview terms, a total waste of good SEO.

The Good: Nothing.

The Bad: Everything.

(image at right)

Ugg was a major trend-setter starting a few years ago.

The Good: The image is clearly visible, even if it's just a woman on a motorcycle. The best part of this preview is that the "UGG" logo and brand is highly visible, even on such a small scale. It's repeated twice on the page and impossible to overlook.

The Bad: There is only one pair of boots on this page and they are hardly visible. That said, Ugg's mission might just lean toward branding. Another search using "black ugg boots" led to a product page. Unfortunately, the image of the black boots in the preview was in flash - so there was no image.

Google Instant Previews is an interesting way to browse search results. Depending on your objectives - and your keywords and the landing pages associated with them - the design mission can vary wildly. One interesting observation from this little bit of research is in the branding elements, or lack thereof. With the exception of, it's near impossible to see any identifiable elements of each brand. It might not be a bad idea to increase logo sizes (and in the case of Payless, special offers, as it's such a big part of their brand) on each and every page on a website.

Every website owner will want to search for their brand and look at their own Google Previews and those of their competitors. But don't stop there. Search for your important keywords to make sure you know how individual landing pages look, and whether the design is supporting the search terms, and the expectations of users. Finally, be very wary of heavy Flash use, as in the case of

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