I'm sure whenever we used to type a keyword in the search bar of Google, the Google changes its search bar UI and the search button become useless in the home page.

Google homepage UI

Google Instant UI

enter image description here

  • 45
    Does it also work this was when Javascript is turned off? Might also work different on mobile versions of the page. I guess the additional Search button is just a failsafe for these cases.
    – J_rgen
    Sep 14, 2016 at 9:46
  • 53
    Let our powers combine. Affordance, Usability, Compatibility, Familiarity, and maybe a hint of Nostalgia. By these powers combined, we have a webpage where you know precisely how to interact!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 14, 2016 at 13:43
  • 1
    Great question! The "Google Search" button is even a "useless button" when the search box is empty. I've also investigated that the "I'm feeling lucky!" button redirects you to the doodle-archives and also disappears when something is typed into the text-box. Check out this question: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/30486/…
    – OddDev
    Sep 16, 2016 at 9:15
  • 6
    Also: The user can configure google search not to do auto fill in(Personally I hate that feature, so I always disable it).
    – MTilsted
    Sep 16, 2016 at 17:57
  • 1
    One of my google fren just replied with 2 reasons. First, having button doesn't create any problem and Second, removing button doesn't solve any problem.
    – Jivan
    Oct 17, 2016 at 8:16

6 Answers 6


Wonderful observation :) Tried it without Javascript as @J_rgen suggested. Might as well be for the same reason. A fallback for other browsers etc.

Also if you consider from a experience aspect, not having a button would seem somewhat incomplete. Not a perfect reason, but might as well be.

Also, I directly asked an ex designer of google.om itself the reason. Here is what he had to say. enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 57
    It may be worth mentioning that google detects a slow connection and will degrade to not automatically searching, I've had this happen to me a few times.
    – N.J.Dawson
    Sep 14, 2016 at 14:25
  • 13
    I think your second paragraph is not correct. The problem is not that "not having a button would seem somewhat incomplete." the problem is that Instant Search is not always performed (for a variety of reasons) and it would be inconsistent to have the page suddenly change adding or removing some UI controls just because this hidden feature becomes active/not-active. Consistency is a big concern in UX, and since keeping the button has no downsides there is no reason to not place the button in all cases.
    – Bakuriu
    Sep 14, 2016 at 16:47
  • 3
    This is kind of like the save button in Gmail. There was a time when the save button literally did nothing at all because Gmail auto-saved as you typed. But when the Gmail team got rid of the save button people freaked out because they "couldn't save" Sep 14, 2016 at 20:48
  • 2
    @Tim Which is zero if you consider the bandwidth they have available. Also: if a webpage changes at random times caching becomes infeasible/not efficient. By always providing the same page you allow the browser to use better caching, which means better bandwidth usage.
    – Bakuriu
    Sep 15, 2016 at 9:12
  • 1
    @Insane because it's function was automated. By the time you pressed save your email would already be saved, so there was never a case where the save button could do anything Sep 15, 2016 at 11:13

There are three reasons:

  1. You have JavaScript disabled on your browser.

  2. Your internet is slow and/or has high latency to Google's servers. (Try this – Google on a slower or high latency connection! It disables instant search)

  3. You use a browser that doesn't support instant.

[Bonus] It has been there always and removing it would confuse people in addition to breaking search on above scenarios.

  • 10
    I would even say that Point 1 should say something similar to "You have Javascript disabled or your browser doesn't support it at all (WAP browsers, text-only browsers like Linx, old Internet Explorer)". Sep 14, 2016 at 15:25
  • 12
    I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you're trying to say Sep 14, 2016 at 15:37
  • 7
    Actually, what I was saying was to actualy expand a bit on the first point. Sep 14, 2016 at 15:49
  • 8
    4. Your search terms include something that will give you porn, so instant is temporarily switched off.
    – TRiG
    Sep 14, 2016 at 20:56
  • 11
    3a. You turned off instant search. Sep 15, 2016 at 5:38

Because users will get confused

If the search button is removed users will think something is wrong with Google and this will lead to a lot of confusion and abandonment of the search process. This complies with the consistency heuristic.

For those who have disabled instant search

Pradeep is asking the question for the case when the instant search is enabled. However, not every user uses this features so the buttons are left for those who haven't enabled instant search.

Novice users (elderly people) who have no computer experience whatsoever might find it useful.

They might not know that pressing the Enter button will show them the results, so the "Google Search" button stays there as it helps this segment of users.

You will be surprised to see what percentage in the world population haven't sit on a computer and don't know how to use the keyboard.

  • 2
    The thing is, as soon as you start typing the button disappears, and google starts showing results, so you can't even click it.
    – MJB
    Sep 14, 2016 at 10:47
  • 3
    @KristiyanLukanov You must not have instant search in for some reason, with instant search enabled you would be seeing what OP is talking about,
    – James T
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:13
  • 1
    @JamesTrotter this is the answer. The Search button is placed In case you don't use instant search. If its removed the users will think that there is something wrong with Google and might get confused, that's why they didn't removed it. Sep 14, 2016 at 15:53
  • 5
    @KristiyanLukanov No, when you start typing with instant search on the buttons are removed. He is not asking why the buttons aren't removed, he's asking why the button is there when it is automatically removed before you can click it. Your answer does not explain that.
    – James T
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:55
  • 1
    @JamesTrotter The button is removed at the same time it starts showing the results, so the user can't possibly get confused about "how can I get my results?". I believe if it decides to stop using Instant then it also displays "Press Enter to search." (for some reason)
    – user253751
    Sep 14, 2016 at 22:35

Firstly, Google Instant is a hidden feature and they provide no cues for it before you begin typing. They can remove the button after the user has begun to type because at this point instant search is exposed to the user. Having no search button available before exposing a hidden feature would be potentially confusing to the user.

Secondly, Google Instant is an optional feature and can be switched off in your search settings. If you have the feature switched off you would need the search button.

Screenshot of Google Instant search settings

Thirdly, as others have already pointed out Google Instant isn't always available. The button needs to be available in case Google Instant is on but doesn't work.

Screenshot of Google Instant support article

  • I turned off instant results but I am still seeing suggestions. Sep 15, 2016 at 11:41
  • @KorayTugay switching off the settings worked for me. Did you scroll to the bottom of the page and click save? Sep 15, 2016 at 12:03
  • 1
    I have both experiences on a regular basis. In my main browser window, I am logged in to Google, so it respects my chosen settings (no instant results), and the button is useful. In my incognito windows, I am not logged in, so the button is superfluous.
    – AshleyZ
    Sep 15, 2016 at 14:56
  • 1
    @KorayTugay suggestions or actual search results? Because both are unrelated - suggestions are just that - it's trying to auto-complete but leaving the choice to the user so if you type in bob it might suggest bob's burgers but it would not act on that suggestion. The instant search results are also exactly what their name implies - you start typing and you get results at the same time. So, if you type in bob you will immediately get pages that mention that. You can have both features on or just one and they will still operate in the same way.
    – VLAZ
    Sep 16, 2016 at 12:56

This was tested by Google, as you may imagine.

The thing is that they wanted something that works from an UX point of view while keeping the good ole style we're used to. Basically, you have 2 main sets:

Set 1: Have Google Instant activated

Set 2: Have Google Instant disabled

No matter which set you belong to, you need to see the same page. The user behavior and preferences will create the flow, as in

if $instant--> do something else --> do something else 

you could argue

"ok, I have my settings in place and I chose "Google Instant Enabled", so why is it still showing the buttons?"

and the keyword here is consistency. The addition of those buttons won't add anything to your experience, and it won't cause any harm since they will disappear. But the page is consistent for everybody, so the buttons stand.

Furthermore, the "I'm feeling lucky" button which is part of Google brand still exists and it works, so taking off the other button will leave you with just... I'm feeling lucky, which is a (supposedly) random search. And a very costly feature, as we're at it!. Hence, you leave the button and everything works out great for everybody

  • 1
    Doesn't "I'm Feeling Lucky" take you to the top result? Sep 15, 2016 at 23:13
  • @SamuelEdwinWard yes, it navigates directly there. The article linked explains that by doing that, Google doesn't get to serve you any ads, hence it "costs" them money. Although whether that's correct terminology could be argued - since it's not money actively taken out of their hands, it might be the incorrect thing to call it. Google "doen't get to make those money" might be a better way to call it but I think you'd agree, it doesn't make for a very click bai-...ahem, I mean, attention grabbing title.
    – VLAZ
    Sep 16, 2016 at 13:01
  • @SamuelEdwinWard, furhermore, many people thinks it's random because of theuseofthe world luck (hence my aggegate of supposedly word). Also, if you click that button without any input, it takes you to a page, and different locale have different first results
    – Devin
    Sep 16, 2016 at 15:34


Don Norman and James Gibson have differing views on the details of what 'affordance' means but, loosely put, it's allowing the user to perform an action in a way that is obvious to them or making the way to perform that action obvious.

Norman says:

"...the term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used. [...] Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Plates are for pushing. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction needed." (Norman 1988, p.9)

and Gibson says:

"an action possibility available in the environment to an individual, independent of the individual's ability to perceive this possibility" (McGrenere and Ho, 2000).

Microsoft products used to use a triplicate model: most primary actions could be performed by either selecting the action from a menu, clicking a button/icon, or activating a keyboard shortcut. This may be what Google is doing with their search: Those users familiar with using the button can do so and users familiar with hitting enter can do so - neither set of users will be impeded by the interface.

  • 2
    Famous Quote: "I'm so broke, I can't even pay attention." (Affordance. Get it?)
    – user67695
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:57
  • @nocomprende I use a paraphrasing of that quote when talking about my ADD. "I have Attention Deficit Disorder. That's why I wasn't paying attention to you; "deficit" means I literally don't have enough attention to be able to pay everyone I "owe" attention to. I wish I had an attention surplus..." Sep 19, 2016 at 22:51

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