Google Rolls Out New-Look Image Search
For those who thought the mobile market would never dictate terms for desktop Internet usage, Google has just proven the mobile market can do just that. As tablets become more and more prevalent in homes and businesses, consumers can expect to see the best of a tablet experience set the terms for desktop interactions in the future. Google, the king of Internet search engines, has just rolled out a new and improved look for its Image Search that borrows from the look and feel tablet users already experience.
The Old Process
Google’s desktop Image Search has been the same for years now. The old process required users to go through multiple steps in order to view the images yielded in the results of its Image Search program. After entering a search term, users were presented with results in a scrollable list. At this point users could hover over any image they wished to see in order to get a bigger “preview” image.
As users scrolled through images and viewed the larger thumbnails while hovering, they could then view the full-size image by clicking on the thumbnail. This would open the full-size image in a separate preview window that was super-imposed over the true website hosting the image.
While not exactly the most cumbersome process, it wasn’t very streamlined either. Searching through multiple images looking for the proper image with the correct dimensions required users to complete the entire process for each image.
New and Improved
As more and more users connect to the Internet on a mobile device, more and more users are accustomed to and demand a streamlined process. Google’s new Image Search is the definition of streamlined.
Once a search is performed the users are presented with a scrollable list of images. Unlike the old system however, a simple click brings up the image in a central preview area with the other results listed above. Rather than clicking to open several different windows and closing them to start over again, the new search allows users to seamlessly switch from one image to the next with just a click. The system operates a lot like Google’s mobile setup, but instead of swiping between images users can simply click their way through image previews.
Google just rolled out the new Image Search last week, but it is already garnering compliments and complaints alike. By in large, users appear to be extremely receptive to the streamlined process Google now offers. Generally speaking, users have shown great appreciation for the easier navigation now available.
Webmasters have so far lauded the change for offering benefits to groups other than average Internet users. Compliments from webmasters include higher Click-through-Rates (CTR), decreased loading time, and less time spent sifting through data online.
The news isn’t all cheers and praise for Google though. Critics have bashed Google for dumbing down the desktop experience to cater to mobile users, and some have gone as far as to accuse Google of robbery. Those who question the new search system claim that it essentially stores images from other sites on the search page, resulting in slower traffic for image host sites by discouraging users from visiting those sites in order to view the full-size images.
Google Answers the Critics
Google was prepared for this backlash from site owners in particular, insisting that not only would the new search system increase page visits but that it would also help to minimize phantom visits.
In an official blog post, Google touted the new features of the improved Image Search that it says will help site owners. The new design includes a clickable domain name for the host site as well as new “visit this page” button by the image that allows users to go directly to the host site. According to Google, this means there are now four clickable targets rather than two as offered in the old system
Google asserts that their tests of the system have shown increased CTR on average for host sites. Additionally, the company has pointed to previous complaints from webmasters about phantom visits under the old system that Google now claims are irrelevant with the new system.
The old Image Search meant loading the host page within the search, generating phantom visits to the host site in the process. By eliminating that function in the new search, Google insists that host sites garner a net gain through better clickable access and the lack of phantom visits.
In the end, Google’s new Image Search seems popular among users and source of concern for some webmasters. Those webmasters that aren’t buying into Google’s proposed net gain in page visits have the option of excluding their site from the new Image Search. With two simple lines of text in a robots.txt.file, webmasters can block Google from using specified images (i.e. images of dogs) or block all images contained on a site.