Google responds to Instant Search criticism

Google’s rollout of their new Instant Search last week was definitely something new for the world of search. In an industry that typically innovates in small, incremental baby steps (at least as far as the user experience is concerned), Google’s Instant Search was a pretty big leap forward for the browser search interface. When something as big as instant Search gets unveiled, controversy is expected. When Google is the proprietor of the change, controversy is inevitable. IDG News Service, according to ComputerWorld, spoke to Othar Hansson, a Google senior staff engineer, who addressed a lot of the issues at hand.

Google pushed the speed of Instant Search as a way to speed up search times for users. A big concern is that all the constantly refreshing sidebars, advertisements and search results would actually distract the user to a point where the search time would actually increase. Hansson said that in usability testing, users tended to focus on the search box until they had their query mostly typed out. They only paid attention to the results when they had typed out what they wanted to search for. Some even thought that this was the way Google always worked. Distraction was rarely a problem, and those people can easily opt out using an easy toggle next to the search bar.

Google didn’t just change the user interface of the most popular search engine in the world. Many believe that Instant Search will change the way people search fundamentally. In and of itself, this may not seem like a bad thing, but it definitely means a shake-up in the SEO industry. In a world where correct prediction of people’s search habits turns into profit, changing the fundamentals of search could mean a similarly fundamental shift in the SEO world. Hansson, however, doesn’t believe it will affect that business so much. He said that he believes that the SEO industry is one of the more flexible areas of the technology industry. Their job is to analyze what users are searching for, and optimizing visibility based on those results. If the results change, they just need to change their algorithms a little bit. If anything, it will only drive more people to Internet search, and will likely be a boon for SEO more than a detriment.

When asked about future applications of the technology in Google products, Hansson said that he would like to see it in every search capability they dip into. Hansson also believes that this will be the default mode of search for future users. He said that most people accepted it is their preferred mode of search after 10 minutes of use. There’s very little learning curve, and the benefits are large. When people, who usually are change averse, accept a technology so quickly, there generally isn’t any looking back. 

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