Google Introduces Visual 'Instant Previews' for Search Results

By Lucian Parfeni on November 9th, 2010 14:40 GMT

Google is getting ready to roll out a feature which will add image previews of web pages to the search results. The new feature, dubbed Instant Previews, should make it easier for users to see if the particular website is what they're looking for without actually visiting the site.

"Instant Previews provides a graphic overview of a search result and highlights the most relevant sections, making finding the right page as quick and easy as flipping through a magazine," Raj Krishnan, a Product Manager at Google, wrote.

Instant Previews is not live yet for everyone, but you can try it out by visiting this link. With Instant Previews enabled you will see a small magnifying glass next to the results.

Clicking on the magnifying glass will activate the feature and an image preview of the site will be loaded on the right. After this, hovering the mouse over another result will load the preview for it.

Instant Previews also works with the keyboard navigation shortcuts Google introduced recently. Pressing the right arrow key with a search result selected will activate Instant Previews. Pressing the left arrow key will deactivate it.

"In our testing, we’ve found that people who use Instant Previews are about 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click. The previews provide new ways to evaluate search results, making you more likely to find what you’re looking for on the pages you visit," Krishnan explains.

Image previews come in handy in a number of instances and should significantly reduce the amount of time users spent going back and forth from the Google search page to the websites in the results.

If a particular page is not what you're looking for, you'll know instantly without leaving Google.com. What's more, the portion of text relevant to your query will be highlighted in the preview so you'll know where in the page is the content that interests you.

There have been a number of add-ons or custom search pages that add previews to Google search results indicating that there is a real interest for this type of feature. Bing already offers a form of text previews. Google has been testing the feature for at least the past month.

Google actually stores a screenshot of the websites it indexes for this new feature. This way, it can cut up the relevant portion and serve the image to the users, on average, in "under one-tenth of a second."

Instant Previews will be rolled out to Google.com as well as the localized version in over 40 languages in the next few days.



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