Google Instant Proves Me Wrong

A few months back I wrote a bit about Minimalist Google, and how the Big G was sacrificing “load” speed (the amount of time it takes the browser to download and render a page) to decrease Focus and Query time (or increase perceived speed).

I have no reliable way to test, but I’d guess this new page loads and renders slower than it’s less-fancy ancestor. If microseconds count — a half-second increase in page load time translates to a 20% decrease in traffic — wouldn’t it benefit the big G to stay away from “needless” styling?

The user path of a basic search would look something like this:

In this scenario, the visit (typing and the page load (receiving data and rendering the page) have little room for improvement. My personal load time for the Google homepage is a little over a third of a second…Similarly, clicking “submit” (or pressing enter) and the speed of the results page have little, if any, improvement.

Turns out, I was wrong (shocking!).

As before, the added code to create this advanced interaction costs some small measure of speed on the downloading and rendering of the page. But, Google has found both real and perceived speed improvements where I thought technology had pretty much hit its limit.

To start, they’ve completely removed a step (Submit). While pressing “Enter” at the end of typing a search query wasn’t the most time consuming action known to man, anyone that has ever reached for the mouse to click “Search” has shaved seconds from their query.

More importantly, though, the wait between submitting the search and waiting for the results has been taken out of the critical path. With live results, the transition between formulating the query and receiving results blurs. Even if this constant updating slows the page (not sure why it would), it gives the perceived feel of instant results.

Thinking it’s faster makes it faster.

Google promotes the idea that Instant can save between 2-5 second per search, based on look-ahead suggestions, shorter queries that produce relevant results, and feedback to show if you are on the right path.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Google is smarter than me, but I am surprised that they found a way to shave that kind of time from a simple search. Google VP Marissa Mayer said “users really respond to speed.” I’m going to take them at their word that this isn’t the last we’ll see of speeding the humble search results page.

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