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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.  

Amazon

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:

Amazon Instant Preview

Next 

Next's homepage is shorter than Amazon's, so the various elements on the page are easier to digest: 

Instant e-commerce 3

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: 

Instant e-commerce 7

Product searches

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. 

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. 

Instant e-commerce 1

JD Sports

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. 

Instant e-commerce 2

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. 

John Lewis

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:

instant e-commerce 9

Whistles

Predictably, the Whistles site looks pretty confusing when previewed: 

instant e-commerce 6

H&M

Thanks to an over-reliance on Flash, users get this when they preview the H&M e-commerce website:

instant e-commerce 8

Graham Charlton

Published 22 November, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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john

How many people will be checking mini previews when they search for information which are mainly text based? 

The preview will be playing a role on getting visitors, but I do believe it is more applicable to sites which are based on images rather than texts (i.e. wikipedia).

Good insight for ECommerce designers indeed.

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi John, 

I was thinking about e-commerce here, but for mainly text based sites, then there are still things that designers can do to make their site stand out. 

These are all elements of good page design anyway, but stand out headlines in larger font sizes, clear separation of paragraphs, use of bold text and bullet points can all help the person previewing to decide whether a site has the information they are looking for. 

almost 6 years ago

Gary Robinson

Gary Robinson, Head of Marketing at Crunch Accounting

A good post Graham. As implied in the article, I don't think you can understate the importance of site credibility when it comes to Instant Preview.

It takes 1/20th of a second for a visitor to get an impression of a website when they land on it, so appearance is going to be key with a preview pane that may prevent a searcher from even getting that far.

First impressions do count and if Preview takes off it will be used to quickly filter out sites that don't match a searcher's personal criteria.

One of those will be the look - we're all influenced by appearance - and we simply won't click if the site design looks amateurish and dated. We certainly won't trust our personal data and money to such a site.

The sites in the post have obviously had quite a bit of money invested in design, but for many businesses that's deemed a luxury. It shouldn't be as there are businesses such as 99designs.com who can build a professional, modern looking design for just a few hundred dollars, if you can't afford a talented designer in-house or via an agency.

I just wrote a post on making your site more credible to increase conversions, which covers the topic of appearance (and references Instant Preview) if anyone is interested to see what else you can do: http://www.itsdigitalmarketing.co.uk/2010/11/21/5-ways-make-site-credible-increase-conversions/

Me personally, I've started to use Previews sparingly (and mostly by accident with a sensitive mouse) and have to admit there have been a couple of occasions where I've just moved on to the next listing having seen a shoddy design.

It will be interesting to see if this latest innovation takes off or whether it joins the pile of other forgotten Google tweaks (Sidebar anyone?)

almost 6 years ago

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FreebieJeebies

To the guy above, i dont think many people will be checking the mini previews. And graham that was a great post

almost 6 years ago

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Harry

Hi!

I think 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. 

Nice Post.

almost 6 years ago

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Tim Walters

In light of the great mobile smack down with Apple, it's ironic that Google introduces something that could lead more retailers to abandon Flash. 

almost 6 years ago

Ben Acheson

Ben Acheson, Digital Marketing Manager at BenAcheson.com

Instant Preview is sure to become more important as users become more familiar with it.

I think the most important thing is to make sure you have at least one appropriately sized image to show instantly what your page is about. It might also be worth considering a heading on every page that is large enough to be clear within the preview.

almost 6 years ago

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Alexander de Albuquerque

In terms of design, adhering for "instant preview" is no different than building sites which work flawlessly with mobile browsers and tablet platforms. The Safari browser on the IPhone is very similar to the "Google Instant Preview" as in they both do not support flash and the viewable resolution is very small. In other words, if your site works well on the IPhone then it will also do well with Instant Preview.

This is more of a design/conversion issue as opposed to SEO, however there is an interesting point to consider. In reality, I do not expect users to even notice the magnifying glass icon, let alone click on it. If the thumbnail preview was available on "mouse hoover" as opposed to "on-click" then I believe we would be reading a very different article.

What I am really interested in is how the clicking pattern of the organic search results will differ once users have jumped upon the "Instant Preview" wagon. In short, it is known that the top 3 listing make up most of the organic clicks, but if people are able to preview those sites before making the "click" decision, would they be more likely to preview more sites before clicking? Probably.

almost 6 years ago

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Alex Wares

One question is whether a siginficant number of consumers will use this feature. Another is why do companies and developers still persist in the use of Flash when there are so many negative side effects.

almost 6 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

I am chuckling thinking that Instant is a new Flash-killer coming from someone you'd never expect like Google.

Very nice considerations, I didn't think Instant could impact website so much but it makes sense and I see brands adapting their design to suit Instant better, since Google is still going to be the reference search engine for a long time.

almost 6 years ago

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Dawn

Just checked up on a few sites where I've had flash and developed a static image as a fall-back, which you would get if you either had no JavaScript or no Flash plugin.  The static image doesn't show up, which would suggest that Instant Previews runs any JavaScript on the page, passes the plugin sniffing (swfobject if you're interested) and then doesn't capture what is on the flash anyway.  That's quite annoying given how much attention is spent ensuring all your flash has static fallbacks.

almost 6 years ago

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David Brown

Another issue to consider is that the google preview bot runs from the US. If you have an EMEA or other non-US subsidiary that has different branding/content/etc. but shares the same domain name as the US entity (relying on IP lookup to ensure users around the globe see the correct localised version of the site), then not only will users outside of the US see a preview that could be entirely different from the site they will be presented with when they click, but you have potential branding message issues. Good post.

almost 6 years ago

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Robert Ford

Good to get an insight into something that could easily be overlooked. I a believer in design and content that renders in as many views as possible. Are you suggesting that we alter designs based on google's latest representation of a site? Does anyone know if you can target the view with custom CSS?

almost 6 years ago

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Paul Lewis

Nice observations. If customers use this feature or not I'm a firm believer in clean simple design to convey key messages and content. Less is more and all that.....

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@ Robert - since its unclear whether the preview feature will become widely used, I wouldn't alter designs based just on this.

However, some of the principles that work well on Instant Preview are just about good, clear design. 

almost 6 years ago

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Nupur Manchanda, Director at Practicology

Nice post Graham.

It's not too big a leap of the imagination for Google to enable Preview on rollover of the link itself (as opposed to on-click of the magnifying glass) similar to the rather addictive and extremely helpful "Quick View" function of some leading eCommerce sites. Then the impact of Preview on click through, conversion and SEO effectiveness will really take effect. 

almost 6 years ago

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Marcanthony

Boy, Flash is really taking a beating! First Apple, now Google. If instant takes off, (and only time will tell), the first item on the agenda is to rethink the use of flash and replacing it with HTML 5. For example, GM recently launched www.gm.com. It is a beautiful site and very impressive to say the least - but when you take a look at it in preview, there is no incentive to click as the new preview feature does not read or preview the flash files. Search engine algorithms can't read Flash, Apple refuses to read flash and with the iPad and iPhone soaring in popularity I think the first step in website design is to rethink the use of the technology. As a small business owner, I don't have the marketing dollars or same branding power of a company like GM, therefore I will have to think very carefully about my electronic presence, its content, and now overall design. MarcAnthony

almost 6 years ago

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ECommerce Designers

Website designers have creative competence and expertise. Nice observations. If customers use this feature or not I'm a firm believer in clean simple design to convey key messages and content.

over 5 years ago

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Peterborough E-Commerce

Nice blogs, its not easy when you design or create your business web page it need more experience and broad mind idea also, you are expert in that field because in business first impression is the last.

over 5 years ago

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Peterborough E-Commerce

E-commerce is now a huge field.helpful article.keep growing!

about 5 years ago

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Peterborough E-Commerce

knowledgeable article your are sharing with us .great!

about 5 years ago

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Ganeshan Nadarajan

Instant preview has a great impact on e-commerce design.It shows the designs of site how they appear at an instant using instant preview also
helps users to choose the best sites when viewed.

over 4 years ago

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nish

Now he is going to make a sensation with rebel movie. Lyrics written by Bhaskarabhatla and Ramajogayya.

almost 4 years ago

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nish

Damarukam telugu movie is the mass entertainer movie. Nagarjuna already impressed in the sai baba character in “Shiridi sai baba” picture.

almost 4 years ago

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nish

Charmi acted in a item and her steps, expressions and dance performance is amazing. People will definitely like the damarukam movie. Audio has been released in the market and all songs are very attractive.

almost 4 years ago

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Ganeshan Nadarajan

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.

almost 4 years ago

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nish

Delhi is also famous for higher studies and it will be in top position ever in education.

almost 4 years ago

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