Google, in its insatiable quest to create a speedier and more useful user experience, is launching a new "instant" feature to help users choose between search results.
Google Instant Previews, which begins its rollout today, essentially gives users the ability to see a website before they visit it. Google (Google) accomplishes this by taking a screenshot of every webpage in its index and giving users access to it via a magnifying glass icon that sits to the right of every search result.
When a user clicks or hovers over the magnifying glass, a screenshot of the webpage in question will appear on the right side of the search results page. It's an at-a-glance view of the website's content without actually having to visit the webpage.
The key element to Instant Previews though is that Google highlights the section of the page where the search term occurs. Imagine you're trying to find information on a specific person on a page that lists dozens or hundreds of people. Instead of having to scroll through the entire page to find the person, you can just look at the Instant Preview and see where they are on the page.
"This is the next evolution of finding a result on a search engine results page," distinguished engineer Ben Gomes told me yesterday.
Gomes says that there are a few specific use cases where Instant Previews are especially useful. One example he offered is when you're looking for specific charts, graphs or pictures, Instant Previews will show you where the search term occurs and you'll quickly see whether the graph is appropriate to your search or not. Another is people search; by using Instant Preview, a user can quickly scan the page and find out if the page is about the person they're looking for.
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