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The launch of Instant Previews has the potential to impact e-commerce site design, though much depends on how many people actually notice and click on the magnifying glass icon.
If it becomes significant, how should etailers respond? I've been seeing how a number of e-commerce sites and product pages look on Google Instant Previews....
Whether significant numbers of shoppers use Instant or not remains to be seen (this eyetracking study suggests many users may not even notice it), but shoppers that do use it may be making snap decisions about whether to visit a website based on how it looks in a small preview window.
This means that e-commerce sites may need be able to convey what they are about to customers based on this quick view.
Here are a few issues from looking at some well-known e-commerce sites via Instant Preview. If I've missed any potential issues, let me know in the comments...
Short pages work best
The longer and bigger the page, the worse it will look on Instant Preview, meaning that users will not see any elements that catch the eye.
For the brand names below, I can't see that Instant Preview will prevent users going to these sites, but the examples do show how different site designs appear when previewed.
With large pages, Amazon was always going to be difficult to view on such a preview, though the images and e-book promotion is visible. However, there are plenty of blank spaces on the page:
Next's homepage is shorter than Amazon's, so the various elements on the page are easier to digest:
Crate & Barrel
Thanks to shorter pages and a simple, clean site design the Crate & Barrel homepage comes across well, and previewers can easily see the 25% off sale, something which may entice them into the site:
This may be where Instant Preview could really matter to retailers, presuming enough people begin to use it. If I'm searching for a particular product without any fixed idea of where to buy it, then I'm likely to choose the site that looks best on preview.
So, in the example below, based on what I see in Instant Preview, I'm more likely to choose JD Sports than Office.
I searched for Chile 62 trainers, and this is the preview for Office. There is no image of the trainer shown, thanks to the rotating Flash display.
On JD though, I can an image of the product I'm looking for, which immediately reassures me, while the price is also in text large enough to be visible.
The dangers of too much Flash
Instant Preview doesn't show up Flash and some other visual elements, so this can spoil the look of the page when previewed. This can either look a complete mess, which may deter potential visitors, or else fail to show key product promotions and offers.
The John Lewis site has a large Flash based promo area above the fold, but this just shows as a blank space on Instant Preview:
Predictably, the Whistles site looks pretty confusing when previewed:
Thanks to an over-reliance on Flash, users get this when they preview the H&M e-commerce website: