Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In August 2011, Google made the following change to the search results (this is no longer default behaviour, though can still be accessed by hitting the Tab button):

I use my cursor keys to move down the page but now the keys rather irritatingly scroll through each result individually, this causes a complete loss of state when the page transitions between top and bottom of the screen.

Example:

mouse cursor

The question is: why might Google done this? Is there any evidence to suggest this behaviour is desired by or useful for users?

share|improve this question
1  
"Is there any evidence to suggest it is desired" - given that Google A/B test everything they do, I think the presence of the feature suggests it's something they've seen positive responses to. –  Rahul Aug 30 '11 at 14:56
1  
I can't find any Google research to explain the change and I am genuinely interested. All I'm seeing is tons of irate users: google.com/support/forum/p/Web%20Search/… –  colmcq Aug 30 '11 at 16:02
    
I can't replicate this behaviour. Maybe Google are only running this as part of multivariate tests at the moment? –  Jimmy Breck-McKye May 23 '12 at 14:04
1  
@JimmyBreck-McKye Look at this question's date. August 2011 was a long time ago, in web terms. –  dhmholley May 23 '12 at 16:06
    
It appears google now only shows the cursor if you hit Tab on the search page –  Ben Brocka May 23 '12 at 16:17

2 Answers 2

As mentioned on the official Google blogspot - the reason is to allow users to browse search results via keyboard alone:

...we’ve introduced keyboard navigation to help you explore your Instant search results using just your keyboard, with no need for a mouse or touchpad.

And that basically means TV based users and the like. Oh and guess what - Google TV might just be relevant here!

You can stop it by turning off Google Instant. (Yup - the whole thing.)

One problem is that it has pay-per-click implications, because it looks like Google is endorsing the first link - which may be a paid ad.

For me personally - I don't have a problem with it. Kinda quite like it actually. There are lots of vocal people who do not like it, but many many more less vocal people who I can't speak for!

share|improve this answer
    
I don't see how it could be seen as an endorsement; the arrow could mean "important" but you'll learn differently once it moves, plus it's certainly not as impactful as the order of the items. –  Ben Brocka Aug 30 '11 at 20:27
1  
@SirTapTap Trust me - the uninitiated will never even discover that the arrow can move or what it's really for. See the last two paragraphs on this article at The Register which quotes concerns from a Pay-per-click analyst regarding the use of the arrow next to an item in the results (either paid or organic section). –  Roger Attrill Aug 30 '11 at 22:21
1  
"search results using just your keyboard" yes, that's the whole point of using the cursor keys! –  colmcq Aug 31 '11 at 8:57

You'll note they've changed this behavior now. Now if you go to Google and hit tab you'll get this cursor. This prevents "breaking" the arrow keys for scrolling. This behavior makes a bit more sense for the keyboard alone paradigm mentioned in Roger's answer; keyboard-only users tend to tab around the page.

It seems fairly obvious (though not clearly stated to my knowledge) that users found the behavior unexpected (when not using tab) so it was changed. The current use is more of a balance between keyboard navigation while not breaking traditional controls.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.