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The previews give Web users a full, detailed image of a search result's page
Google is pretty active and constantly testing out new ideas and running new search experiments.
But one quiet, under-the-radar experiment today caught several people's attention. Google appears to be testing out a new search feature that displays full-page previews of search results.
I was unable to reproduce the search, but some Web users have found that when they run a search on Google, one or more links come back with a blue highlighting, and when the user positions the cursor over the link, a full-page preview of the site is displayed on the right-hand side of the search page.
Google currently offers page-previews in the form of small, low-resolution thumbnails, but they only give a blurry outline of what the page looks like. The previews that were spotted this morning give a detailed full-page view of the different links so that the user can see exactly what each page offers, which would significantly cut down on the amount of time spent clicking around and waiting for pages to load.
An email to Google came back with a characteristically tight-lipped response from Nate Tyler, head of Global Communications and Public Affairs: “Our statement on this is: ‘At any given time we are running between 50-200 search experiments. You can learn more on our blog (link).’”
This would be a pretty logical next step after Google introduced Google Instant several weeks ago, which allows Web users to see search results as they type in their search terms. Why not go even further to cut down on the amount of time users spend searching by providing page previews, thereby cutting out the time spent loading? It’s like seeing into the future!
And this is also how Google Instant first leaked to the public. Users spotted Google’s quiet instant search feature several weeks before it was officially announced. Similarly, Google ran several quiet tests of its search results page redesign, unveiled earlier this year.
The full-page previews, though -- if and when officially announced -- will probably garner an even more enthusiastic response than the one that many had to the thumbnail previews. Back in 2009, one publication remarked: “The biggest new feature is the Page Previews, which…like the name suggests, adds a small review of the page in the search results next to the regular entries. This could make it easier to find out if a page is relevant to your search without visiting it, speeding things up considerably.”
The downside? “The preview thumbnail doesn't include the entire page, just a crop of a section of it, meaning that it's not always very relevant. It also takes longer to load than the regular results page…” So it sounds like Google has just found the solution to the challenge of how to make previews more relevant and quicker.
My guess is the official announcement is not far off.
Image source: i.i.com.com
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